The Samurai Blue took their next step toward the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a 5-0 win over Afghanistan on Thursday night at Saitama Stadium.
The hosts dominated in the first half, but could not find a goal until Leicester City star Shinji Okazaki received Hiroshi Kiyotake’s pass, weaved around two defenders and struck a powerful shot past the goalkeeper.
The scoring picked up in the second half, with Hannover midfielder Kiyotake, Southampton defender Maya Yoshida and Kashima Antlers striker Mu Kawasaki all finding the back of the net.
In addition to Kanazaki, the J.League was represented on the pitch by Gamba Osaka goalkeeper Masaaki Higashiguchi, FC Tokyo defender Masato Morishige, Urawa Reds midfielder Yosuke Kashiwagi and Kawasaki Frontale striker Yu Kobayashi.
The win, combined with other results across Asia overnight, assures Japan of advancement to the third round of World Cup qualifying.
Vahid Halilhodzic’s men will close out the second round against Syria on Tuesday, March 29.