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Blue Samurai slay Argentina for historic win

sports Updated: Oct 09, 2010 18:57 IST

AFP
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Japan upset a full-strength Argentinian side 1-0 Friday in a historic friendly win that crowned the coaching debut of former AC Milan boss Alberto Zaccheroni.

Shimizu S-Pulse striker Shinji Okazaki scored the winner in the 19th minute while the Blue Samurai managed to stop several scoring attempts by Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

Messi's 25-metre free kick in stoppage time banged off a Japanese wall and a sold-out crowd of more than 60,000 At the Saitama Stadium roared in joy at the final whistle.

It was the first win for the Blue Samurai in seven international matches against Argentina.

The result ended Argentina caretaker coach Sergio Batista's 100 percent record since he took over from Diego Maradona ever since the South Americans crumbled to Germany in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Batista's squad beat Ireland 1-0 away on August 12 and crushed world champions Spain 4-1 at home on September 7, but came unstuck against a committed Japanese side.

"I feel very happy. My debut match turned out to be such an important event," said the 57-year-old Italian Zaccheroni, who has managed six Serie-A teams.

"I told my players in the bench before the match that if you work hard it will produce a result."

Japan, who reached the last-16 in South Africa for their best World Cup finish on foreign soil, fielded seven European-based players.

Many among the crowd were keen to catch an up-close glimpse of Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi. They did not have long to wait as Messi squandered two early chances, lofting the ball onto the top of the net after trapping a return pass in front of goal in the seventh minute.

Seven minutes later he dribbled up the field and attacked from the right but Lierse goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima deflected his effort.

Okazaki's goal came after Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero punched a 30-metre shot by Japan captain and Wolfsburg midfiedler Makoto Hasebe.

Okazaki rushed into the box and hit the rebound beyond the diving Romero into the right corner of the net.

In the 27th minute, Kawashima had to stretch to stop Messi's 30-metre free kick.

But Japan too had chances to extend their lead. Two shots by CSKA Moscow midfielder Keisuke Honda and Schalke defender Atsuto Uchida within five minutes from half-time went either straight into the keeper's hands or over the bar.

Deep into the second half Manchester City striker Carlos Teves trapped a cross from Messi off guard in the area and slapped it far wide.

On 70 minutes, J-League leading scorer Ryoichi Maeda nearly doubled the score when he dribbled away from Argentine defenders and shot off the right post.

Messi bungled another chance in the 75th minute when he slammed a Tevez cross to straight to Kawashima.

Japan came close to scoring again in the 88th minute when Maeda dribbled past two Argentine defenders but his left-foot shot was swept away Romero.