OSAKA, Japan (Reuters) – Japan banged in two goals in an eight-minute blitz to set-up a 2-1 win over Australia in a key Asian Cup warm-up here on Tuesday.
The Australians created the better chances in a scoreless first half but were overrun by the Blue Samurai in the second term.
Japanese substitute Yasuyuki Konno opened the scoring in the 61st minute when he headed the ball into the Australian net after being left unmarked then striker Shinji Okazaki added a second with a spectacular back heel.
Japan missed a string of chances to increase their lead before the Australians pulled one back in stoppage time when the Socceroos’ best player Tim Cahill, who only came on as a late substitute, scored off a header.
“I said last week, I’ll affect the game in a positive way and I did,” Cahill told reporters.
“We played fantastic tonight. We just got to believe.
“We’re fearless. We have nothing to lose. I’m just buzzing for the Asian Cup.”
Despite Cahill’s confidence, Japan are looming as the likely favourites to defend their Asian Cup title when the tournament takes place in Australia in January.
The teams met in the final in 2011, with Japan winning 1-0 in extra-time, and Tuesday’s match was both country’s last warm-up before the 16-nation tournament.
The Australians have lost eight of their last 12 matches and head coach Ange Postecoglou said they clearly needed to improve if they hoped to win on home soil but there were some good signs.
“We lost our shape in the second half. Our first half was positive but the way we let ourselves down, it’s disappointing,” he told reporters.
“I don’t regret bringing Timmy on that late. I needed to blood players. We let ourselves down.
“We still have to get details right. I thought tonight against a really good opponent, for 45-50 minutes we were good.”