Japan drew 1-1 against Iraq on Tuesday in 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying, returning with a point from Tehran despite taking an early lead.
The Samurai Blue scored the opening goal in the eighth minute when Yuya Osako cleverly headed in a corner kick from Keisuke Honda, who wore the captain’s armband on his 31st birthday.
Vahid Halilhodzic’s men attempted to lay on pressure through Genki Haraguchi and others, but the first half ended without a follow-up goal.
As the afternoon heat remained above 37 degrees Celsius, Japan’s struggles increased following a 62nd-minute injury to midfielder Yosuke Ideguchi. Just 10 minutes later, a series of defensive errors allowed Iraq to equalise through Mahdi Kamil’s effort.
With Hiroki Sakai substituted out due to an injury shortly after and striker Yuya Kubo struggling with leg cramps, Japan valiantly attempted to claim full points on the road but settled for honours even at the final whistle.
The Samurai Blue will conclude their qualifying campaign at home against Australia on August 31 and away at Saudi Arabia on September 5, needing a win from either match to guarantee advancement to the final tournament next year in Russia.