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Sunday, 9 June, 2002, 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK
Inamoto makes history
Junichi Inamoto slots Japan ahead against Russia
Inamoto scores his historic goal for Japan
Japan 1-0 Russia

Junichi Inamoto's goal gave Japan their first World Cup finals win and blew Group H wide open.

The midfielder who has struggled to win a place in Arsenal's first-team, slotted in a 50th-minute goal to send a nation into raptures.

Japan's pacy, exuberant football proved too potent a cocktail for Russia, and Hidetoshi Nakata came close to adding a second when his shot struck the bar.

Open Quote
We saw a great Japanese team and our victory was fully merited
Close Quote
Japan coach Philippe Troussier

Inamoto stoked up the already electric atmosphere on five minutes when he strode forward to unleash a ferocious shot wide of the target.

Stand-in captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto, sporting a black protective face mask, twice read dangerous situations to kill off dangerous through balls.

GRAPHIC ANALYSIS

Veteran Russian sweeper Viktor Onopko - winning his 100th cap - used all his experience to cut out Inamoto's long ball which threatened to put Takayuki Suzuki clear.

The game was being played at a cracking pace and on 16 minutes, teenager Marat Izmailov had Japanese hearts in their mouths when his shot curled just wide of the post with goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki groping.

Despite the pace, two well-organised defences kept the attacks at bay, but Japan opened the Russians up on 27 minutes.

Koji Nakata outstripped Andrei Solomatin and his low cross was palmed out by Russian keeper Ruslan Nigmatullin as far as Hidetoshi Nakata who blazed over the unguarded goal from 18 yards.

Junichi Inamoto celebrates his second goal of the tournament
Inamoto celebrates his second goal of the tournament

Japan were certainly pumped up for the occasion and Narazaki bravely plunged at the feet of Ruslan Pimenov as Yegor Titov's neat reverse-pass almost played him in.

Titov's pass inside Koji Nakata opened up Japan's defence but Kazayuki Toda read the danger superbly to slide in and divert Solomatin's cross behind for a corner.

As half-time approached Narazaki again took command of the situation as defenders in front of him hesitated, bravely plunging in to claim Yuri Nikiforov's through ball.

Valery Karpin tried to bring some cool, calm reason amidst the hurly-burly as he delicately picked his way to the by-line where his cut back was touched wide by Izmailov.

MATCH FACTS
51mins: Inamoto puts Japan ahead.
56mins: Beschastnykh misses after rounding the keeper.
70mins: Hidetoshi Nakata's shot hits the bar.

But the co-hosts maintained the breakneck pace and got their reward on 51 minutes with a beautifully constructed goal.

Koji Nakata's left-wing cross was smartly laid off by Atsushi Yanagasiwa to Inamoto who found himself space in the crowded area to coolly lift his shot over Nigmatullin.

Substitute Vladimir Beschastnykh was thrown on in the 57th minute and should have scored with his first touch as he latched on to a flick on and rounded Narazaki, only to bury his shot into the side-netting.

Gaps were appearing in both defences and Yanagisawa chested down Hidetoshi Nakata's measured long pass, only to blast over from 12 yards.

Japan's confidence was sky-high and Hidetoshi Nakata almost doubled their lead on 71 minutes with a screaming 25-yard shot that shuddered the Russian crossbar.



Japan: Seigo Narazaki, Naoki Matsuda, Tsuneyasu Miyamoto, Koji Nakata, Tomokazu Myojin, Junichi Inamoto, Kazuyuki Toda, Hidetoshi Nakata, Shinji Ono, Takayuki Suzuki, Atsushi Yanagisawa.

Russia: Ruslan Nigmatullin, Yuri Kovtun, Yuri Nikiforov, Viktor Onopko, Andrei Solomatin, Valery Karpin, Yegor Titov, Alexei Smertin, Igor Semshov; Marat Izmailov, Ruslan Pimenov.

Referee: Markus Merk (Germany)


MATCH STATS
  Japan Russia
Corners (1st half) 0 1
Corners (2nd half) 1 2
Fouls committed 28 21
Caught offside 1 5
Shots on target 7 5
Shots off target 7 5
Hit woodwork (back into play) 1 0
Yellow cards 3 3
Red cards 0 0
STOPPAGE TIME
First half - 1 mins Second half - 2 mins


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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Ron Jones
"Inamoto was the star for Japan"
Japanese coach Phillippe Troussier
"We proved we can play good football"
Russian spokesman Victor Gusef
"We didn't take our chances"
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JAPAN V RUSSIA
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 SQUAD PROFILES
GROUP H
  P GD PTS
JAPAN 3 +3 7
BELGIUM 3 +1 5
RUSSIA 3 0 3
TUNISIA 3 -4 1




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