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Japan's Nagatomo ends decade-long wait


Saitama: Yuto Nagatomo revelled in scoring his first goal in a decade as Japan strolled to a 6-0 win over Mongolia on Thursday to establish themselves at the summit of Group F of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023.

The Galatasaray full-back netted his side’s third goal in a comfortable win over their East Asian rivals after Takumi Minamino had given Hajime Moriyasu’s side the lead and Maya Yoshida doubled the home team’s advantage.

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Nagatomo profited from a fine move down the right flank that saw Junya Ito receive a perfect return pass from Minamino and the Genk man’s low ball towards the far post was slotted home with glee by the 33-year-old.

“It’s been a long wait and I’ve been wanting to score for a while,” said the former Inter Milan player. “It’s a great feeling to do it after a decade.”

MD3 - Group F: Japan vs Mongolia

Nagatomo’s last goal for Japan came against Hong Kong on October 8, 2009 in qualifying for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup and on Thursday, he was one of the standout performers for a Samurai Blue side that was rarely threatened by the visitors.

Japan took until the 22nd minute to break the deadlock and four goals – including that drought-breaker from Nagatomo – in 18 minutes ensured Moriyasu’s side were never in danger of an upset.

“We have the experience and we were able to keep our cool,” said Nagatomo of Japan’s early struggles. “We put the game to bed after the first half with those four goals. It’s great that we kept a clean sheet and scored six goals.”

Kensuke Nagai headed home Japan’s fourth five minutes before the break and second-half goals from Hiroki Sakai and Daichi Kamada completed the win for the four-time AFC Asian Cup winners.

“There was a huge gap between our opponents and us, but I’m glad we won all three points,” said Yoshida.

The win moved Japan into top spot in Group F alongside Tajikistan, with both teams on six points ahead of their meeting in Dushanbe on Tuesday.

"We didn't let them drag us down,” said Moriyasu. “We were aggressive. It's a performance we can learn from. It was ‘One for all, all for one’ and now we need to prepare as well as we can.”

Photos: Japan Football Association

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