|Ryang Yong Gi of North Korea (6) and Yasuhito Endo of Japan battle for the ball during the 2014 World Cup Soccer preliminary round match in Saitama-ken on Sept. 2, 2011. Japan beat North Korea 1-0. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)|
Japan had been continually were frustrated by the defence of North Korea who also had to deal with Pak Kwang Ryong sent off seven minutes from time.
But Jap[an, playing at home in Saitama, Japan put on some heavy pressure late in injury time and got the win when Yoshida headed home the ball allowing Japan to essentially steal three points from North Korea.
"We were able to keep a clean sheet but the main thing was that we started with three points," explains Yoshida, whose only previous goal for Japan rescued a 1-1 draw against Jordan in their opening game of the Asian Cup in Qatar in January 2011. "This result will give us something to build on for our next game."
With North Korea content to sit back and wait for an opening on the break, Japan continued to dictated proceedings in front of over 54,000 anxious spectators but failed to create any tough scoring chances in the first 45 minutes.
Probably the closest Japan got was when Kashiwagi Yosuke, filling in for injured CSKA Moscow star Keisuke Honda, crossed a ball to Lee Tadanari Lee who nodded it straight at the North Korea keeper Ri Myong Guk in the 33rd minute and just before Japan's Kagawa Shinji Kagawa placed the ball wide of the right hand post.
Kashiwagi had also earlier hit the crossbar, but even if it had gone in, it would have been ruled no goal, as referee Ali Hamad Albadwawi had already noted an infringement and awarded North Korea a free kick.
In the second half, Japan continued its pressure, but North Korea played good defence and held on with some strong play from keeper Ri who grabbed a string kick from Hasebe Makoto in the 47th minute.
When Japan coach Zaccheroni brought in Mike Havenaar with 20 minutes left, he hit the crossbar in the 74th minute, and generally played well in his international debut.
Kiyotake Hiroshi and Kagawa both came close to scoring, but it really was Yoshida's goal in the 4th minute of injury time that was the play of the day.
"North Korea defended very well with good rhythm for the whole 90 minutes. There is never a guarantee that a goal is going to come, but I was always sure that we would score," Zaccheroni reveals.
North Korea coach Yun Jong Su praised his players' efforts and was confident his team would still qualify for the final round of qualifiers: "The goal we conceded came from a mistake but the players really tried hard until the end."
Japan's next match is against Uzbekistan away on Tuesday, September 6, 2011 in Tashkent. The Blue Samurai (Japan's men's soccer nickname) have also been drawn with Tajikistan, who replaced Syria after they were disqualified for fielding an ineligible player in the second round of the competition.
The 10 teams in the final round will be split into two groups, with the top two from each group automatically qualifying for Brazil and the 2014 World Cup. The third-place teams will have to play each other for a single spot in the intercontinental playoff against a team from South America for a potential fifth place from Asia.
Files compiled by Andrew Joseph