Japan Thrash Thailand (Feb 6 2008 )

JAPAN kicked off their attempt to qualify for a fourth straight World Cup finals with a 4-1 victory over Thailand at Saitama Stadium.

Yasuhito Endo, Yoshito Okubo, Yuji Nakazawa and Seiichiro Maki were all on the scoresheet in the Group Two clash as Takeshi Okada marked the first competitive game of his second spell in charge of the former Asian champions with a comprehensive win.

The home side went ahead in the 21st minute when Gamba Osaka midfielder Endo curled in a free-kick over the Thai defensive wall from just outside the penalty area.

Thailand were without captain Tawan Sripan and defender Niweat Siriwong because of injury while winger Suree Sukha and midfielder Datsakorn Thonglao were suspended.

But a minute after Japan's opener, the visitors responded in unexpected fashion thanks to an individual effort from Teeratep Winothai.

The former Crystal Palace forward received the ball in the middle of the pitch before firing home from distance to level the scores.

With the Thais defending well as a unit, Japan had to wait until the second half to find the target again.

Eight minutes after the break, Koji Yamase dribbled to the byline and, although his cut-back was met by Narongchai Vachiraban, his clearance attempt deflected off Kengo Nakamura sending the ball in the direction of Yoshito Okubo.

The Vissel Kobe forward was first to react and tapped the ball over the line.

Two minutes later, former Eintracht Frankfurt striker Naohiro Takahara came close to extending Japan's lead, forcing Thailand goalkeeper Kosin Hathairattanakool to fly to his right to punch clear.

With the hosts in control, Thailand faced an additional setback in the 64th minute when Narongchai was sent off for a second bookable offence after bringing down Nakazawa.

Two minutes later, Japan made it 3-0 when Nakazawa out-jumped his marker to head home a Nakamura free-kick.

The Japanese continued to make their numerical advantage count and a minute into added time Maki headed Endo's corner beyond Kosin to complete the scoring.