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Saitama: Goalscorer Yosuke Ideguchi lauded his team’s efforts after Japan confirmed their sixth consecutive FIFA World Cup qualification following a 2-0 win over Australia on Thursday, which clinched first place in Group B with a game to spare.

Takuma Asano had given the hosts the lead four minutes before half-time but it was Ideguchi, who turned 21 last week, who sealed the vital three points and the Samurai Blue’s place at Russia 2018 with a stunning strike from range on the 82nd minute.

“The flow of the game was very tough but the fact we were able to win despite all that bodes well for us looking ahead, I feel,” said Gamba Osaka midfielder Ideguchi.

“I was given the opportunity to start on such a big stage tonight, and I was determined to make sure I left a positive impression.

“And, of course, once the ball hit the net for my goal, I was, frankly speaking, absolutely delighted.”

In securing the victory, the home side also ended a winless run of five World Cup qualifiers against the Socceroos, to the delight of the majority of the nearly 60,000 fans in attendance at Saitama Stadium.

“I don’t think our previous record against Australia really mattered, a lot of those results are in the past,” said Ideguchi, who was part of a Japan starting line-up that did not include stars like Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa.

“It is very important for the team as a whole that pressure is applied to the senior players from below, and the fact that both groups were able to achieve this result today is very important.

“In fact, the reason we were able to control the game tonight was due to the input of our veteran players.”

For their final qualifier on Tuesday, Ideguchi and his teammates will travel to Jeddah and a meeting with a Saudi Arabia team that are still in contention for the second automatic qualifying spot.

“It’s the last game of the final round of qualifiers and so we want to wrap things up with a win,” added Ideguchi.

“We’ll make sure we keep looking ahead and preparing for what’s next.”

Photos: AFP

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