CONCACAF got the better of the Asian Football Federation in Hannover as Mexico topped Japan 2-1 despite falling behind to a goal from Atsushi Yanagisawa.
The Japanese were on a high having become the Dominoqq first nation to have qualified for Germany 2006 barely a week ago and they included their three Italian-based players in their starting line-up: Shunsuke Nakamura, Yanagisawa and talisman Hidetoshi Nakata.
Mexico, coached by Argentinian Ricardo La Volpe and missing a number of key players, took the game to their opponents from the whistle with Jaime Lozano crossing for Jose Fonseca to nod narrowly over the bar.
Both teams soon settled into a relaxed-tempo chess game in midfield so it was a surprise when the Japanese grabbed a twelfth-minute lead thanks to Akira Kaji’s speedy break down the right wing. His whipped cross found an onrushing Atsushi Yanagisawa muscling between the two Mexican centre-backs before deftly sending the ball spinning past Oswaldo Sanchez into the corner of the net.
The Japanese were looking the more adventurous during the first half-hour with Nakata’s spectacualr attempt at a bicycle kick after twenty-four minutes a sign of their growing confidence.
Three minutes later however Mexico hit back when a Pavel Pardo free kick deep on the right found an unmarked Jared Borgetti whose point-blank header was saved by an alert Yoshikatsu Kawagushi. On the half hour mark Ricardo Osorio advanced and and let rip from twenty yards to remind Japan they were still in the game with an hour left to play.
Mitsuo Osagawara barked instructions at goalscorer Yanagisawa as Japan’s coach Zico pounded animatedly around the technical area, while La Volpe remained seated, wrapped in his thoughts.
The Argentine’s decorum was shattered however after thirty-nine minutes when his number …