Japan downplay win over S. Korea
Japan downplayed their convincing 3-0 victory over long-term rivals South Korea as the team turned its attention Thursday to the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
Borussia Dortmund star Shinji Kagawa bagged a brace and World Cup hero Keisuke Honda scored another as the Asian champions claimed their first home win over South Korea in 13 years on Wednesday.
"The Japanese men are strong, too," read a headline in the Nikkan Sports daily after the one-sided home game in Sapporo, which followed glory for the women's team in the World Cup in Germany last month.
But Kagawa and Honda said they had work to do before the Blue Samurai launch their campaign next month to qualify for a fifth successive World Cup finals.
"It was purely a friendly match. The qualifiers will be much tougher. So this result won't get us anywhere," Kagawa told local media.
The midfielder spent four months on the sidelines after breaking a metatarsal in his right foot at the Asia Cup in Doha in January, where Japan clinched a record fourth continental title.
"The South Koreans looked heavy-footed," said the 22-year-old, who made a big impact after his move to Dortmund in July last year, scoring eight goals in 17 league games before the winter break.
"When we passed the ball, it created space. When we moved, they didn't chase us."
Honda, a CSKA Moscow midfielder and the driving force behind the team, said: "We were concerned about how we would play, let alone the result. I feel happy that we fought a good game."
But the 25-year-old, who says his ambition is to win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, added: "I want to refocus ourselves on the World Cup qualifiers. It's not that we got something out of this."
Coach Alberto Zaccheroni was delighted with the win.
The Blue Samurai are now unbeaten in 11 matches, with six wins and five draws since he took over following the World Cup.
"It gave us a lot of confidence for the qualifying round," the coach said.
In the World Cup Asian qualifying round, Japan, in Group C, will host North Korea on September 2. The group also includes Uzbekistan and Syria.
South Korea, in Group B, will face Lebanon on September 2, followed by Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
The result on Wednesday put South Korea's head-to-head record with Japan at 34 wins, 11 defeats and 20 draws, according to FIFA statistics.
The two sides drew 0-0 in Seoul in October last year.
Japan battled to scoreless draws with Peru and the Czech Republic at home in June, the only other friendlies the team has played this year as the country struggles to recover from March's quake-tsunami disaster.
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