Japan beat Thailand to close in on making the final round of World Cup qualifiers (June 15, 2008)

Tor Chittinand

Japan hammered Thailand 3-0 to virtually secure a place in the next round of World Cup qualifiers at Rajamangala National Stadium last night.

Goals from Marcus Tulio Tanaka, Yuji Nakazawa and Kengo Nakamura put Japan equal with Bahrain atop Group Two with 10 points.

The Japanese will advance to Asia's final qualifying stages if Oman failed to beat Bahrain last night.

Thailand have one point with one match remaining, away to Oman. Two teams progress to the next round.

Japan were boosted for the away match by over 20,000 fans - double the number of Thai supporters.

Led by Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura, the Japanese were too strong for Thailand, who had lost 3-1 to Japan in Saitama, and dominated from the kick-off.

Afer squandering a couple of chances, Japan opened the scoring after 23 minutes when a corner kick found an unmarked Tanaka who headed past Thai goalkeeper Kosin Hathairattanakul.

Japan got their second goal in similar fashion when Nakazawa easily headed home from a corner in the 39th minute.

Although Thailand improved in the second half, they could not create clear scoring opportunities.

Japan added their third in the 88th minute as substitute Kengo Nakamura beat the offside trap to get on the end of a chip into the area and shot confidently past the Thai goalkeeper.

Thailand coach Chanvit Phalajivin was unhappy with his side's defence of set pieces.

"Our weakest point today was against set plays. We conceded two goals from corner kicks. We can't allow this to happen if we are to move to another level in Asian football," he said.

"We were under constant pressure in the first half.

"We just couldn't play and we were just kicking the ball away all the time," he said.

Japan coach Takeshi Okada said his men were in complete control in the first half and had several scoring chances.

Although Thailand played better in the second half, Japan could absorbe pressure and won, he said.

"We can get better after this win," he said.