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Scotland hold Japan 0-0 to win Kirin Cup

Written by: Staff
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SAITAMA, Japan, May 13 (Reuters) Scotland ruined Japan's World Cup send-off by holding the Asian champions to a goalless draw to win the three-nation Kirin Cup today.

It was Scotland's first trophy since 1985 when they beat England at Hampden Park to win the Rous Cup.

Japan were beaten 2-1 by Bulgaria in the tournament opener before Scotland crushed the Bulgarians 5-1 -- their biggest away win since beating New Zealand 5-2 at the 1982 World Cup.

Scotland and Bulgaria failed to qualify for this year's World Cup in Germany.

Japan needed to beat Scotland by three goals to deny the visitors the title and were unlucky not to be ahead by halftime in rain-soaked Saitama.

Right-back Akira Kaji cut inside on to his left foot and crashed a fierce long-range shot against the post in the 24th minute before Shinji Ono produced the game's best moment.

Ono latched on to a clever flick from Keiji Tamada before skipping past two defenders and forcing a superb reflex save from Scotland goalkeeper Neil Alexander.

Japan suffered a World Cup scare at the start of the second half when defender Yuji Nakazawa was taken off by stretcher after being elbowed in the face by Lee McCulloch.

Mitsuo Ogasawara came close in the 52nd minute and Alex's injury-time free kick was well smothered by Alexander but Japan's lack of a cutting edge in attack once again let them down.

''There was a lot of pressure on us to score the three goals we needed,'' said Japan coach Zico. ''We were positive and created enough chances to win. I'm satisfied with the performance.'' The Brazilian names his 23-man World Cup squad on Monday.

''Regardless of today's result, I already know my squad and I'm relaxed about it,'' said Zico.

Japan are drawn alongside holders Brazil, Australia and Croatia in Group F. They leave Japan on May 26 and will play their final warm-up games against hosts Germany and Malta.

REUTERS DH RK1826

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