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Wednesday, 12th September 2012
In Japan Sports News, Sports,

Japan overcomes Iraq despite key player being injured

The Japanese men's football squad managed to overcome their Iraqi rivals in the latest round of the 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifiers.

Although the side were short on one of their key players, the team still remained strong and secured a 1-0 victory over Iraq on Tuesday (September 11th).

Japan now has an eight point lead as they top the table of group B - with the two best-performing sides in two groups of five winning a ticket to the competition set to be held in Brazil.

They achieved the result despite the fact Shinji Kagawa, who recently joined Manchester United, was out of play due to back pain.

He explained that he felt a "twinge" in his back during practice while handling the ball and although he received treatment to alleviate the pain, he did not want to "risk" playing and disappointing his team.

"Obviously it's a shame I wasn't able to play. It's not that serious and I don't think it will keep me out for long," he said. 

It was not an easy win for Japan, however, as they took on a team that have drawn their first two games in the competition.

Still, former footballer and past coach of Japan, Zico, who is now heading the Iraqi team, was also faced with a squad dogged by injury and suspension.

Despite possible excuses for conceding defeat, the Brazilian national handed kudos to Japan for their play.

"We tried hard to win this game, but it ended in a defeat. Japan prepared for the game very well," the AFP quoted him as saying.

Japan's current coach Alberto Zaccheroni, born in Meldola, Italy, admitted the battle was not easy for his side either.

Describing it as "really tough", he maintained that the team wanted to get a ticket to the World Cup as soon as possible and that he now has his sights set on the next match. 

Japan's next clash is against Oman on November 14th.

Posted by Mark Smith



Related news stories:
Japan's air defence troops to leave Iraq (30th November 2008)
Japan and Iraq sign bilateral agreement (3rd February 2009)