TAMPA – Keisuke Honda had two goals and Yoshito Okubo scored in the 91st minute, giving Japan a 4-3 victory over Zambia in its final warm-up for the World Cup on Friday night.
Honda and Shinji Kagawa delivered within a two-minute span of the second half, helping Japan take a lead and seemingly control of the match after falling behind 2-0 in the first 29 minutes.
Zambia’s Lubambo Musonda made it 3-3 in the 89th minute, but Japan wasn’t finished. Toshihiro Aoyama set up the winner with a pass from near midfield, with Okubo using his left foot to control the ball and set off a celebration among Japan fans in the crowd of 7,275 with a shot from in front of the net.
Honda also scored on a penalty kick in the opening half after Zambia, which is not bound for Brazil for soccer’s biggest tournament, build its lead on Christopher Katongo’s header in the ninth minute and Nathan Sinkala’s goal 10 minutes later.
Japan plays Ivory Coast in its World Cup opener on June 14. It also will face Greece and Colombia in the group stage, hoping to build on a promising showing in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The Asian champions beat Cameroon and Denmark before losing to Paraguay in the knockout round.
Kagawa, Yasuhito Endo and Yoichiro Kakitani scored second-half goals to help Japan rally past Costa Rica 3-1 in the first of two warm-up matches the team played in Tampa to prepare for the World Cup. Friday’s comeback was sparked by Honda’s penalty kick, which trimmed Zambia’s lead to 2-1 in the 40th minute.
Kagawa made it 2-2 in the 73rd minute, and Honda added his second goal to give Japan, making its fifth straight World Cup appearance, its first lead in the 75th minute.
Coach Alberto Zaccheroni brought the team to Florida for a week of training in hopes of getting his players acclimated to hot and humid weather similar to what they’ll likely encounter in Brazil.
Zambia goalkeeper Toaster Nsabata and Japan forward Shinji Okazaki remained in the game after a leaping collision in front of the net left them bloody in the 17th minute.
The players appeared to butt heads at the height of their jumps. Each remained on the ground for several minutes before play resumed with Okazaki wearing a bandage wrapped around his head and Nsabata sporting one above his right eye.