The former Arsenal and Fulham midfielder Junichi Inamoto's late goal helped Japan come from behind to edge Ghana 4-3 in an entertaining friendly at Galgenwaard Stadium in Utrecht yesterday.
Ghana, who secured their place at next year's World Cup finals on Sunday with a 2-0 win over Sudan, started well and went ahead in the 31st minute when a corner from Sulley Muntari, formerly of Portsmouth, hit the hand of Yuto Nagatomo and the referee awarded a penalty which Asamoah Gyan converted.
The African side went further ahead early in the second half when Gyan latched onto a long kick from substitute goalkeeper William Amamoo, shook off defender Yuji Nakazawa and fired home.
Japan responded in the 54th minute when Kengo Nakamura picked up a loose ball and scored from 20 yards. But it was Ghana who went further ahead in the 67th minute when Matthew Amoah latched on to a cross and rounded the goalkeeper before slotting home.
The Japan coach, Takeshi Okada, brought on Keiji Tamada and Keisuke Honda midway through the second half – a pivotal move as the balance of the game began to swing their way.
They reduced the deficit in the 78th minute when Tamada ran onto a Nagatomo pass down the left and fired home before Shinji Okazaki connected with an Inamoto cross just a minute later and headed the ball into the back of the net to make it 3-3. Inamoto then struck a dramatic winner to cap a fine fightback from Japan.
"We went behind at half-time with a penalty but I told our players at the break that this would be a good test for us and I wanted them to play without fear. They responded well," Okada said.
The Ghana coach, Milovan Rajevac, said the game was an important workout for both sides and lavished praise on Japan. "This was a very good and very interesting game as part of our preparations for next year's World Cup," he said. "We played well for most parts of the game and scored three goals but we lost in the end. My team were a little bit tired but that cannot be an excuse. Japan are a quality team and are going to play very well in the World Cup. They know what they want and they are very dangerous."
Qu Bo and Jiang Ning were both guilty of missing good chances as China had to settle for draw with Senegal in a friendly in Harbin yesterday. The hosts, who were fine-tuning their squad ahead of their 2011 Asian Cup qualifier against Lebanon in November, displayed fluent attacking football throughout but their forwards failed to turn the chances into goals. China's best efforts all came late on as Qu first latched on to Jiang's well-timed through ball but chipped over the bar. Jiang was then unmarked in the box soon after but his close-range attempt was denied by the goalkeeper.
"The match would have been perfect if we could have scored a goal," said the China coach, Gao Hongbo. "But the result wasn't very important and we should take lessons from the match before the coming Asian Cup qualifier." China were defeated 3-2 by Syria in their opening Asian Cup match before they crushed Vietnam 6-1 at home.
"China's pace was impressive and we had to defend well today," said Senegal's interim coach Amsatta Fall. "But we didn't do well in counter-attack. Our crosses were too inaccurate."
Japan have qualified for four consecutive World Cup finals – 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010.Reuse content