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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Japan Under-23s end goal drought

Japan's Under-23 side thrashed Venezuela's full international squad 4-0 Friday to end a three-match goal drought in their final warm-up match at home for the Athens Olympics.

News photo
Sota Hirayama of Japan scores in the 59th minute of Friday's match against Venezuela in an Olympic tuneup match at Tokyo's National Stadium. Japan won 4-0.

Yoshito Okubo opened the scoring in the 36th minute before Sota Hirayama, Daiki Takamatsu and Tatsuya Tanaka added second-half strikes at National Stadium, giving a confidence boost to Masakuni Yamamoto's men two weeks before the start of the tournament in Greece.

"All the players have been getting into better shape. They coped very well with the way the opponents played," Yamamoto said.

Japan's Under-23s hold a final tuneup in Germany from Tuesday where Feyenoord midfielder Shinji Ono joins 'keeper Hitoshi Sogahata, who was rarely tested in Friday's game, as "over-age" players for the Olympic tournament. Japan are grouped with Paraguay, Ghana and Italy in the first round.

Japan women win

Striker Mio Otani scored two early goals Friday as Japan warmed up for the women's soccer tournament at the upcoming Athens Olympics with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Canada.

Otani put the home side ahead with a ninth-minute penalty after midfielder Kozue Ando was brought down inside the box, and added her second two minutes later with a header from a left-wing cross from defender Naoko Kawakami.

Japan enjoyed the bulk of possession for the rest of the match at National Stadium and its constant pressure paid off in the 78th minute with an own goal by Canadian midfielder Diana Matheson following a cross from Eriko Arakawa.

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