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2019 International Friendly, International Friendly
  • Kensuke Nagai (19', 42')

Japan beat El Salvador thanks to Nagai brace

Kensuke Nagai scored his first goals for Japan with a brace in a 2-0 win over El Salvador in Miyagi on Sunday.

The 30-year-old, who has had a less than prolific career in the J.League, was called up for only his seventh cap by coach Hajime Moriyasu following an impressive run with table-topping FC Tokyo.

Nagai took both his goals with aplomb; scoring the first by cutting inside to send two El Salvador players sliding on the wet turf before a neat finish and then sweeping home Genki Haraguchi's cross for his second.

Yet it was not all good news for Nagai, who was forced off with a shoulder injury 10 minutes into the second half.

Arguably the biggest cheer of the night went up with 23 minutes to go, when Nagai's strike partner at Tokyo, Takefusa Kubo, came on for his debut.

Kubo, who only turned 18 on June 4, is nicknamed the 'Japanese Messi' having trained in Barcelona's famed youth academy and has been linked with a transfer to a host of top European clubs.

Kubo, who became the second-youngest player to represent Japan, was a constant menace down the right after coming on, almost scoring himself and laying on several chances for team mates.

Yet the Samurai Blue could not find a way through a resolute El Salvador and had to settle for the 2-0 win.

It was Japan's last game before they play as an invited team in the Copa America later this month, but only four players who featured on Sunday, including Kubo, are in Moriyasu's squad for Brazil.

That squad contains only seven players to have previously played for Japan, with his selection of such a young and raw squad an indication that the coach has one eye on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics next year.

In Brazil, Japan have been drawn in Group C alongside Uruguay, Ecuador and Chile.