Forward Dragan Mrda bagged a brace to help Serbia ease past Japan 3-0 on Wednesday in Osaka as the teams build up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.
Although both sides fielded only their domestic league players, the result piles more pressure on Japan boss Takeshi Okada, two months before the big kick-off in South Africa.
The Serbians were dangerous from the off, when midfielder Radosav Petrovic played in Mrda, who beat three defenders before firing a sizzling shot to open the scoring in the 15th minute after hitting the post with an earlier attempt. Mrda put Serbia two up in the 23rd minute, quickly collecting a rebound off Japanese goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki before striking home.
Japan had a couple of chances in the first half, but forward Shinji Okazaki's shot missed in the 21st minute, while Yuzo Kurihara's header went over the bar a minute later. The visitors made it 3-0 when midfielder Nemanja Tomic netted a free-kick from distance in the 60th minute.
"We didn't have enough time for preparation, but I think we showed the level of Serbian football in today's game," said assistant coach Radovan Curcic, who was standing in for Radomir Antic. Most of the Serbian players have never represented their country before. "All of our players are from the Serbian league, but I think my players proved that they can compete against the current players of the top teams."
It was Japan's last game before they announce their final squad in mid-May for the World Cup finals in South Africa. "Our defence was unstable from the beginning. That was the cause of our defeat.," Japan coach Okada said. "They were stable in the second half, but I feel that we must play more aggressively when we are behind," he added.
At the FIFA World Cup this summer Serbia will play Germany, Australia and Ghana in Group D, while Japan meet the Netherlands, Denmark and Cameroon in Group E.