SAITAMA, Japan — Defender Atsuto Uchida scored late in the first half on May 27 as Japan beat Cyprus 1-0 in the team’s final match on home soil before departing for the World Cup.
Uchida put Japan ahead in the 43rd minute when he pounced on a rebound off a save by Cyprus goalkeeper Panos Constantinoy and calmly tapped in from close range.
“I think the team did OK,” Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni said. “We just finished a physically hard training camp so there was some tiredness, but our decision making was good.”
Uchida had just returned from a thigh injury sustained in January. “I got injured and I wasn’t sure if I would make it back in time,” Uchida said. “But I got picked for the team and was looking to make a contribution today.”
Veteran striker Yoshito Okubo, a surprise inclusion in Japan’s World Cup squad, came on just before the hour mark and almost doubled the advantage with a right-footed shot from around 30 yards (meters) that sailed over the crossbar.
Cyprus, ranked 130th in FIFA’s world rankings, never seriously threatened Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.
Japan, which is preparing for its fifth consecutive World Cup campaign, faces Ivory Coast, Greece and Colombia in Group C in Brazil.
Shinji Kagawa had another good scoring chance in the second half with a right-footed shot from the edge of the area that forced Constantinoy to make a diving save.
Zaccheroni’s team will leave Japan on May 28 for a training camp in Florida that includes tuneup matches against Costa Rica and Zambia.
(JIM ARMSTRONG, AP Sports Writer)