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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 31, 2006

Japan beaten by Bulgars in Kirin Cup

OSAKA, Japan, May 9 (Reuters) - Bulgaria struck in the opening and dying seconds to beat World Cup-bound Japan 2-1 in a Kirin Cup friendly on Tuesday.

Portsmouth's Svetoslav Todorov stunned Japan with a sharp near-post finish to put the visitors ahead just 53 seconds into the opening game of the three-team tournament.

Striker Seiichiro Maki equalised after 76 minutes, diverting a fierce drive from substitute Alex into the net from close range to boost his claims for a World Cup place after his third goal in eight games.

Substitute Hristo Yanev snatched a fortuitous winner for Bulgaria with a 30-metre free kick that evaded his team mates and crept inside goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi's far post.

Japan largely dominated after going behind with midfielder Yuki Abe forcing a tremendous save from Stoian Kolev and striker Keiji Tamada firing a left-foot shot against the post.

The Bulgarians, missing most of their regulars, face Scotland in Kobe on Thursday. Both teams failed to qualify for the World Cup in Germany.

Japan, without their Europe-based players for both games, take on Scotland in Saitama on Saturday in their final home match before leaving for Germany on May 26.

The game against the Scots will be Japan coach Zico's last chance to assess his players before the Brazilian names his World Cup squad on May 15.

The Asian champions play tournament hosts Germany in Leverkusen on May 30 and Malta in Dusseldorf on June 4 in their final two World Cup warm-up games.

Japan are drawn alongside holders Brazil, Australia and Croatia in Group F. They begin their campaign against Australia on June 12.