REUTERS - Japan’s preparations for next week’s 2014 World Cup qualifier against Australia suffered a blow on Thursday with a 2-0 home loss to Bulgaria in an international friendly in Nagoya.
The visitors took the lead in pouring rain at the Toyota Stadium after three minutes when home keeper Eiji Kawashima failed to control Stanislav Manolev’s curling free kick and allowed the ball to creep in.
Bulgaria doubled their advantage when midfielder Makoto Hasebe redirected the ball into his own net from substitute Hristo Zlatinski’s cross midway through the second half.
The home team, enjoying long periods of possession, were denied on several occasions by Bulgaria keeper Vladislav Stoyanov who produced some fine saves.
Japan, who host Australia in Saitama on June 4, have a six-point lead in Group B with two games remaining and are poised for automatic World Cup qualification.
Japan, attempting to book a fifth consecutive World Cup finals appearance, have 13 points from six matches. Jordan are second on seven from six games and Australia third with six from five.
Bulgaria, featuring eight home-based players in their starting lineup, visit Kazakhstan on Tuesday in another international friendly.
Writing by Angel Krasimirov in Sofia, editing by Justin Palmer