Japan won their opening game in the Asian Cup 1-0 despite a brave performance from Oman. The holders had a brilliant Shunsuke Nakamura goal to thank for the win, the midfielder beating two defenders before a clinical finish.
The Japanese looked a poor imitation of the team that had impressed so many in the 2002 World Cup and missed the injured Hidetoshi Nakata and Junichi Inamoto. Far from dominating their opponents, it was Oman who had three clear opportunities to score in the closing stages.
Oman coach Milan Macala – who had been sacked as Saudi Arabia boss after their 2000 Asian Cup defeat to Japan – was philosophical after the loss.
Football is about taking chances at crucial moments. Today we suffered a slip in concentration and we played as well as we can play in the second half,” he said.
Elsewhere former Japan coach Phillipe Troussier became the first managerial casualty of the tournament as he was dramatically sacked by Qatar just two days after they had gone down 2-1 in their opening game against Indonesia.
Iran ‘s Ali Daei marked his 126th cap with his 95th goal as his team beat Thailand 3-0 in their opener. However, it was deep into the second half before the Iranians scored against a Thai side whose Asian Cup build-up had been anything but calm. The resignation of coach Carlos Roberto Carvalho and a war of words between the players and controversial Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has blighted their campaign.
The outcry following Peter Velappan’s claim that Beijing’s fans were rude and unruly, seems to have subsided.
Velappan, general secretary of the Asian Football Conference, made the comments after supporters appeared to jeer AFC and FIFA officials at the weekend’s opening ceremony. He was made to apologise after a backlash from the Chinese press and public.