Kirin Cup win leaves bitter taste for Japan

TOKYO - Rarely can a 5-0 bashing of a former World Cup qualifier have left such a bitter taste after Japan's evisceration of a thread-bare Togo in the Kirin Cup.

Japan captain Yuji Nakazawa wore a sheepish grin while accepting the trophy following a 2-0 victory over an equally below-strength Scotland in the tournament's opener.

His coach was fuming after Wednesday's match in Miyagi, however, Togo having arrived in Japan almost a day late with just 14 players on Tuesday and decided to scrap training.

"We'll have to look at playing World Cup warm-up matches away," Takeshi Okada told reporters. "Even if we fly in and fly straight out again. We need to play against strong teams."

Photos in Japanese newspapers of Togo players slumped on their suitcases at the airport accompanied news of eight last-minute withdrawals after a financial dispute with the country's FA.

More pictures of camera-toting Togo substitutes taking snapshots of the crowd behind the bench during the match did little to boost the tournament's flagging image.

Japan have qualified for next year's World Cup in South Africa but Togo's failure to reach the finals led to a raft of drop-outs for the Far East trip.

TIME RUNNING OUT

"We will be in trouble unless we play more testing games," Japan Football Association chief Motoaki Inukai told Thursday's Nikkan Sports. "Time is running out before the World Cup."

Even striker Shinji Okazaki's second hat-trick in a week -- following a 6-0 Asian Cup qualifying win over Hong Kong -- failed to mask the disappointment of Okada and his players.

"You could tell by the atmosphere we were expected to win after Togo turned up in such a pickle," said Nakazawa. "We just tried not to get careless."

The game was far from a sellout with swathes of empty seats in the stadium.

Okada had complained after 10 withdrawals from Scotland's squad, stopping just short of asking counterpart George Burley to provide sick notes after late injuries to key players.

"We wanted two tough matches but you can only beat the opposition in front of you," said Okada.

"The hard work starts now."


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