Japan beat Saudi Arabia 3-1 in Asian Cup qualifier
November 15, 2006 6:26pm CST
Japan beat Saudi Arabia 3-1 at home on Wednesday to finish top of their qualifying group for next year's Asian Cup. Striker Kazuki Ganaha scored twice as Japan avenged their defeat away to Saudi Arabia in September to snatch top spot in Group A on goal difference. Both sides had already qualified for the 2007 Asian Cup finals but Japan outplayed the visitors with probably their best performance since Ivica Osim took over from Brazilian Zico. Defender Tulio gave Japan the lead in the 20th minute, bundling the ball home from close range after Seiichiro Maki's header had been blocked on the line. Ganaha added a second nine minutes later before the Saudi Arabia pulled one back through an Al Qahtani penalty in the 33rd minute. Ganaha restored Japan's two-goal advantage from close range five minutes into the second half to secure a deserved win for the Asian Cup holders in front of 41,000 at Sapporo Dome. The draw for next year's finals, to be hosted jointly by Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia, takes place on Dec. 19 in Kuala Lumpur. Japan have won the last two Asian Cups, in Lebanon in 2000, and two years ago in China with a controversial 3-1 victory over the hosts in Beijing.