Hosts Japan were held to a 0-0 draw by China in the East Asian Championship in Toyota on Sunday to leave Hajime Moriyasu’s side needing to beat defending champions South Korea in their final game on Wednesday to claim the regional title.
Moriyasu’s team sit in second place in the four-nation competition, two points behind the Koreans after the five-time tournament winners handed Hong Kong a 3-0 defeat earlier in the day.
The Japanese, who have only won the title once previously, made 11 changes to the side that defeated Hong Kong 6-0 in the opening round and lacked fluency as a result against an inexperienced Chinese outfit.
Moriyasu has selected a squad consisting entirely of J-League based players for the competition and no-one on display on Sunday pushed their case for inclusion in Japan’s 26-man selection for the World Cup finals in November.
Poor finishing and a solid display by Chinese goalkeeper Han Jiaqi prevented the Samurai Blue from finding a way through in a game in which the hosts dominated without convincing.
The Koreans, who have won the last three East Asian tournaments, had earlier downed Jorn Andersen’s Hong Kong to build on their opening round win over the Chinese on Wednesday.
Kang Seong-jin gave Paulo Bento’s side the lead with a deflected effort from distance 17 minutes into the game but the Koreans had to wait until the 73rd minute to double their advantage.
Kim Jin-kyu’s ball split the Hong Kong defence to release Hong Chul and he scored with a shot across goalkeeper Chan Ka-ho.
Kang put the result beyond doubt four minutes from time with a diving header as Hong turned provider with a curling cross from the left that bounced in front of goal before Kang nodded home.
Japan and South Korea face off in the final round of matches in Toyota on Wednesday after China take on Hong Kong.
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