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Japan beat Ecuador 1-0 in friendly international

Written by: Staff
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TOKYO, Mar 30 (Reuters) Substitute striker Hisato Sato scored six minutes from time to give Japan a 1-0 win over Ecuador in a World Cup warm-up friendly in Oita today.

The speedy Sato and tall Seiichiro Maki rejuvenated Japan's attack when coach Zico sent them on in the 76th minute and the payoff came eight minutes later.

Midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara capitalised on poor defending by Ecuador to control the ball and feed Alex on the left wing and the Brazilian-born defender crossed low into the centre for Sato to delicately steer the ball past Mora from close range.

''It was a great ball in from Alex that made it easy for me to score,'' Sato told reporters.

Zico said: ''I was really pleased with the way the defence performed and how (goalkeeper Yoshikatsu) Kawaguchi played.

''The defenders put in a great effort and really helped the whole team perform well.'' Kawaguchi came to Japan's rescue in the 32nd minute when he tipped a ferocious 30-metre drive from midfielder Edwin Tenorio onto the crossbar.

That turned out to be as close as Ecuador would get to scoring with the home side gradually gaining the upper hand.

Strikers Tatsuhiko Kubo and Keiji Tamada, who have struggled in the J. League this season, both had golden chances that they failed to finish off.

Kubo's toe poke in the opening minutes rolled agonisingly past the post, while Tamada's best effort was blocked by Ecuador goalkeeper Cristian Mora.

Kubo came close again with a deft header from an Alex cross in the 67th minute, but Mora tipped the ball away.

Japan face Brazil, Australia and Croatia in Group F at the World Cup in Germany, while Ecuador will be up against hosts Germany, Costa Rica and Poland in Group A. The tournament kicks off on June 9.

REUTERS DH KP1948

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