Japan end woeful run, Lewandowski shines for Poland

13Jun 2018
The Guardian
Japan end woeful run, Lewandowski shines for Poland

JAPAN claimed their first victory of the year on Tuesday, coming from behind to beat Paraguay 4-2 and boost sagging morale a week before their opening World Cup Group H match against Colombia.

It was The Blue Samurai’s first win under coach Akira Nishino, who had lost friendlies against Ghana and Switzerland since taking over in April.

Japan, one of the most successful Asian teams, having qualified for the World Cup for a sixth consecutive time, scored four times despite managing only three shots against Paraguay, who failed to reach the World Cup finals.

Takashi Inui set up the victory at the Tivoli-Neu stadium in the Austrian city of Innsbruck with two second-half goals, both assisted by Shinji Kagawa. Paraguay’s Federico Santander scored an own goal and Kagawa put the result beyond doubt with a stoppage-time effort.

“We held our shape in defense and contained them, and that was a concern for us, but you need balance as well,” Nishino said after his team ended a five-match winless streak, stretching back to December. “You need to break down your opponents and we finally did that in the second half.

“Inui has a talent for dribbling in the box and I want more of that from him. We saw that with his second-half goals.”

Fellow Group H side Poland ended their World Cup warmup fixtures on a high with a resounding 4-0 win over Lithuania as talismanic striker Robert Lewandowski netted twice in the first half.

The 29-year-old skipper took his tally to 55 international goals and also scored for the 36th time in 37 Poland games under coach Adam Nawalka.

Dawid Kownacki and Jakub Blaszczykowski were also on target for the Poles at Stadion Narodowy in Warsaw.

Poland begin their Group H campaign in Moscow against Senegal next Tuesday.

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui will leave his post after the end of the World Cup to take charge at Real Madrid, the Champions League winners said in a surprise announcement just two days before the start of the tournament in Russia.

Egypt forward Mohamed Salah, still recovering from his shoulder injury, remains a doubt to face Uruguay in their World Cup opener at Yekaterinburg on Friday, the Egyptian FA’s managing director Ehab Lehita said.

“He is gradually getting better. However, I cannot confirm today that he will play in the first match,” Lehita said of the 25-year-old, who scored 44 goals for Liverpool last season.

There was some good news for Belgium with coach Roberto Martinez playing down fitness concerns over Eden Hazard after the skipper limped out of their final World Cup warmup match against Costa Rica on Monday.

“Eden is okay, he had a little trouble, but it’s nothing to worry about,” Martinez said.

World soccer’s governing body FIFA announced on Tuesday that Argentine referee Nestor Pitana will take charge of Thursday’s opening World Cup match between hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia in Moscow.

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