Japan ended Iraq’s dream of qualifying at the World Cup with a 1-0 win in Doha on Tuesday.
Shinji Okazaki scored for Japan in the 89th minute, leaving Japan on 17 points from their eight Group B games with Iraq bottom on five ahead of their eighth and final fixture away to Australia next week.
Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni was keen to grab a win after the Nippon team lost to Jordan and Bulgaria.
“It has been a while since we had won so I told the players to finish off with a victory,” the Italian said. “The heat and wind made things difficult but we did well enough tonight. I think we showed we have been a force to be reckoned with in this group.”
The Japanese, who sealed top spot in the group last week with a point at home to Australia, rested first teamers Keisuke Honda, Ryoichi Maeda and Maya Yoshida for the fixture while skipper Makoto Hasebe was suspended, the international press reports.
Japan caught Iraq on a swift counter with midfielder Yasuhito Endo selflessly squaring the ball for Okazaki.
“I was free and was going to go for it myself but made the right decision,” said Endo, who captained the side in the absence of Hasebe.
“We have the Confederations Cup next and hopefully the team can perform well,” he added.