Japan edges Zambia in last World Cup warm-up
TAMPA - Yoshito Okubo netted the winning goal in stoppage time to give bloodied Japan a 4-3 victory over Zambia on Friday in the Asian champions' final World Cup warm-up match.
AC Milan striker Keisuke Honda scored two goals and Manchester United forward Shinji Kagawa added another, but it took second-half entrant Okubo to send Japan to Brazil with a 3-0 mark in tune-up friendlies.
Japan fell behind by two goals and saw a bloody gash opened over the left eye of striker Shinji Okazaki in the 18th minute, but they rallied behind their star attackers for the victory.
Honda scored on a penalty kick in the 40th minute, Kagawa netted the equalizer in the 73rd minute and Honda flicked in a centering pass in the 75th minute for a go-ahead goal.
Zambia answered when reserve teen midfielder Lubambo Musonda scored in the 89th minute, his outside attempt deflecting high and over Japan goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa.
That set the stage for Okubo's game winner, as the midfielder took control of a long centering pass at the top of the penalty area and blasted in a shot with his left foot on the next stride.
Japan will try to carry that momentum when they fly to Brazil on Saturday, a week before opening World Cup play against Ivory Coast with later Group C matches scheduled against Greece and Colombia.
Japan, ranked 30 spots above Zambia by FIFA at 46th in the world, fell behind 2-0 before fighting back.
Kagawa's pass attempt from the right side of the penalty area was deflected by the right arm of Zambian defender Emmanuel Mbola, setting up a penalty kick that Honda slid to the right and just inside the post.
Kagawa knotted the score when he sent a right-footed cross into the heart of the penalty area aiming for Honda, who was delayed by a defender and missed the ball.
Zambia goalkeeper Toaster Nsabata, who was anticipating a move from Honda, could only helplessly watch the ball bounced into the goal to his left.
- Dramatic finish -
Shortly after that, Honda put Japan in front for the first time, setting up the dramatic finish.
Japan was troubled early by the 2012 African Cup of Nations winners.
Okazaki collided with Nsabata in the 18th minute, the African's fists opening a bloody gash above the Japan striker's left eye as both tried to reach a high ball falling near the top of the penalty area.
Both players stayed on the ground for several minutes but remained in the game, Nsabata with a bandage over a small cut and Okazaki after a bandage was wrapped around his head.
Zambia captain Christopher Katongo opened the scoring in the ninth minute, the midfielder racing past Japan defender Atsuto Uchida to the far post and heading in a deflected ball.
Nathan Sinkala, a midfielder for French side Sochaux, put Zambia ahead 2-0 in the 29th minute, curling in a right-footed shot from the top of the penalty area.
The match concluded a week-long training camp in Florida for the Blue Samurai, who sought to acclimate to hot and humid conditions expected in Brazil.
Japan defeated Cyprus 1-0 and Costa Rica 3-1 in prior warm-up friendlies over the past two weeks.
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