Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Okubo strikes twice to sink Egypt

Yoshito Okubo scored his first goals for his country as Japan cruised to a 4-1 victory over a second-string Egypt side to win the AFC Asia-Africa Challenge Cup on Wednesday in Osaka.

The 25-year-old Vissel Kobe striker scored in the 20th and 42nd minutes to put the home side in the driving seat, the second coming courtesy of a cross from Osaka midfielder Yasuhito Endo.

"Finally I scored. I feel relieved because it was my first goal," said Okubo. "I was able to beat a defender when I received the ball, so I was determined to hit a shot at goal. I also received a nice cross for the second goal. The ball happened to hit my head and went into the goal. I'm glad it went in."

Egypt got off to the better start in this match between the five-time CAF Africa Cup of Nations winners and the 2004 Asian Cup champions, who were playing their last international of the year. But it was the Japanese who had the first effort at goal, Kawasaki Frontale's Kengo Nakamura forcing visiting goalkeeper Abd El Monsef into a fifth-minute save.

With Japan two goals up at the break thanks to Okubo, the home side went further aheaad on 53 minutes through Jubilo Iwata striker Ryoichi Maeda for what was also his first goal for his country after he exchanged passes with Satoru Yamagishi before finishing from close range.

The visitors managed to pull one back moments later when midfielder Hosni Abdrabo hit a free kick from outside the area which grazed forward Mohamed Fadl's back and went in. Any hint of a comeback was dashed in the 67th minute as Yuichi Komano crossed for Akira Kaji to score.

"It was not important whether it was the last game of the year or not," said Japan coach Ivica Osim. "Although Egypt used some young players today, we played very good against such a strong team like Egypt. There is not a big difference between the two teams like the score indicates.

"And it was tough for my players to keep their concentration since it's close to the end of the J-League season. Hopefully, this result will be a good stepping stone towards the World Cup qualifying round next year."

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