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Wednesday, 13th June 2012
In Japan Sports News, Sports,

Blue Samurai favourites for World Cup qualification

Japan have emerged as clear favourites to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after taking a commanding lead of their qualification group with a 1-1 draw against Australia.

On a warm evening at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium the visitors came away with a point to leave themselves with a five point gap at the top of the table, Reuters reported.

The decisive moment in the match came on 56 minutes when Mark Milligan was dubiously sent off for a second bookable offence with the game still goalless.

With the Socceroos down to ten men Japan quickly scored through Yuzo Kurihara, but that was not to be the referee's final contribution to the outcome.

If the decision to send off Milligan was controversial, the referee's award of a penalty to Australia in the 69th minute for a nothing challenge at least helped redress the balance.

Luke Wilkshire gratefully equalised from 12 yards to tie the match, leaving Japan top of the group with seven points from three games and Australia in third on goal difference, with two points from two games.

The result follows a stunning start to the Blue Samurai's qualification campaign in which they comfortably beat Oman 3-0 before thrashing Jordan 6-0.

Elsewhere in the Asia Group B, Iraq and Oman are in second and fourth place respectively with two points, while Jordan sit at the foot of the table with one point.

Japan's legendary Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni is optimistic that his team will qualify now, having conceded only once while scoring ten in their opening three games.

"We play to win and we dropped points today, but I think we deserve seven points from these three games," he told the news agency.

"The seven points are important but what's more important is the process we went through to gain these seven points."

Written by Mark Smith