x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Honda kick-starts Japan's campaign

The CSKA Moscow midfielder paved the way for a 3-0 victory over Oman, while Al Wasl's Mohammed Reza Khalatbari scored at the death to clinch victory for Iran in Uzbekistan.

Japan's Shinji Okazaki, second right, celebrates his goal against Oman.
Japan's Shinji Okazaki, second right, celebrates his goal against Oman.

Japan, the Asian Cup holders, beat Oman 3-0 yesterday in their opening match of Group B in the final Asian qualifying round for the 2014 World Cup.

It was a comfortable victory for the hosts at the Saitama Stadium, with Keisuke Honda, the CSKA Moscow midfielder, first on the scoresheet in the 12th minute. The two-time J-League top scorer Ryoichi Maeda was on target in the 51st minute before Shinji Okazaki, the Stuttgart forward, made it 3-0 late on.

"We were a bit tense at the beginning, but I wanted to win. I'm glad that we won," said Honda.

"I scored the goal as I planned to do. I think we relaxed with that goal."

A total of 10 Asian countries are split into two groups of five for the continent's fourth qualifying round, with the group winners and runners-up earning places in Brazil, and the third-placed teams going into play-offs.

"It was our first game, so it was important to get off to a good start," said Japan's Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni. "I think we can play well in the next two games. We were able to concentrate because of the support of so many people at the stadium."

In the group's other game, Ahmad Ibrahim's goal two minutes before the break cancelled out Nashat Akram's 14th-minute opener for Iraq as Jordan were held to a 1-1 draw at home.

In Group A action, Mohammed Reza Khalatbari, the Al Wasl forward, scored with virtually the last kick of the game to help Iran come away from Tashkent with an invaluable three points and a 1-0 win against Uzbekistan.