Japan warms up for World Cup qualifier with draw against Syria

Japan warms up for World Cup qualifier with draw against Syria

Japan warms up for World Cup qualifier with draw against Syria

Japan limbered up for next week’s World Cup qualifier against Iraq with a 1-1 draw with Syria in a friendly on Wednesday night.

Japan, which currently tops its qualifying group ahead of Saudi Arabia on goal difference and is looking to take a big step toward a place at a sixth straight World Cup against the Iraqis in Tehran on June 13, fell behind at Ajinomoto Stadium when Syria’s Mardek Mardkian scored with a header in the 48th minute.

But the home side struck back 10 minutes later through midfielder Yasuyuki Konno — who only returned to action with 30 minutes for club side Gamba Osaka on Sunday after breaking his toe in March — before laying siege to the Syrian goal for the rest of the match.

“If you watch the second half, we were good enough to win,” said Japan manager Vahid Halilhodzic. “But I’m satisfied with the draw and it was good preparation for the Iraq game. It was a good test for us. I used a lot of players and took a lot from the game.”

Halilhodzic faces an injury headache for next week’s game after Shinji Kagawa left on a stretcher just 10 minutes into Wednesday’s match and fellow midfielder Hotaru Yamaguchi also picked up an injury.

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