Osako, Kurata on target as Japan see off New Zealand

Japan’s preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup got underway on Friday as they claimed a 2-1 friendly win over New Zealand at the Toyota Stadium.

Following a goalless first half, the Samurai Blue were presented with the perfect opportunity to break the deadlock when they were awarded a penalty in the 49th minute after a Hotaru Yamaguchi shot struck Andrew Durante’s hand inside the area.

Yuya Osako took the responsibility of stepping up to the spot for the hosts and made no mistake, sending Stefan Marinovic the wrong way with an emphatic effort into the top corner.

But a minute before the hour mark, New Zealand equalised when Marco Rojas found space down the right and hung a lovely cross up at the far post, allowing Chris Wood to climb between Maya Yoshida and Hiroki Sakai and head home.

Just when it looked like a draw was on the cards, Japan went on to claim the victory with just three minutes remaining.

A left-wing delivery by Takashi Inui was nodded back by Sakai back into the danger zone, where Shu Kurata was on hand to stoop low and send a header into the back of the net.

Next up for Valid Halilhodzic’s charges is a game against Haiti in Yokohama on Tuesday, before they face sterner challenges in the form of Brazil and Belgium next month.