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FIFA World Cup: Croatia, Japan, Greece, Colombia win, Costa Rica held to draw in warm-ups

Costa Rica drew with Ireland while Croatia, Japan, Greece and Colombia post wins in their respective matches.

Keisuke Honda had two goals and Yoshito Okubo scored in the 91st minute, giving Japan a 4-3 victory over Zambia in its final warm-up for the World Cup. (Source: Reuters) Keisuke Honda had two goals and Yoshito Okubo scored in the 91st minute, giving Japan a 4-3 victory over Zambia in its final warm-up for the World Cup. (Source: Reuters)

Forward Nikica Jelavic scored in the 58th minute to give Croatia a 1-0 win over Australia in the teams’ final warm-up match before the World Cup.

The Hull striker was given plenty of room after receiving a pass inside the box and rocketed the ball from close range past Australia goalkeeper Mat Ryan.

There were no real scoring opportunities for either side in the first half.

Croatia has several injury concerns with Greece-based defender Danijel Pranjic replaced with an apparent ankle injury. And Eduardo da Silva suffered an injury to his right leg and was substituted off in the 79th minute.

Croatia plays Brazil to open the World Cup on June 12.  Australia plays Chile in its opening Group B match the following day.

Yoshito Okubo rescues Japan against Zambia

Keisuke Honda had two goals and Yoshito Okubo scored in the 91st minute, giving Japan a 4-3 victory over Zambia in its final warm-up for the World Cup on Friday night.

Honda and Shinji Kagawa delivered within a two-minute span of the second half, helping Japan take a lead and seemingly control of the match after falling behind 2-0 in the first 29 minutes.

Zambia’s Lubambo Musonda made it 3-3 in the 89th minute, but Japan wasn’t finished. Toshihiro Aoyama set up the winner with a pass from near midfield, with Okubo using his left foot to control the ball and set off a celebration among Japan fans in the crowd of 7,275 with a shot from in front of the net.

Honda also scored on a penalty kick in the opening half after Zambia, which is not bound for Brazil for soccer’s biggest tournament, build its lead on Christopher Katongo’s header in the ninth minute and Nathan Sinkala’s goal 10 minutes later.

Japan plays Ivory Coast in its World Cup opener on June 14. It also will face Greece and Colombia in the group stage, hoping to build on a promising showing in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The Asian champions beat Cameroon and Denmark before losing to Paraguay in the knockout round.

Kagawa, Yasuhito Endo and Yoichiro Kakitani scored second-half goals to help Japan rally past Costa Rica 3-1 in the first of two warm-up matches the team played in Tampa to prepare for the World Cup. Friday’s comeback was sparked by Honda’s penalty kick, which trimmed Zambia’s lead to 2-1 in the 40th minute.

Kagawa made it 2-2 in the 73rd minute, and Honda added his second goal to give Japan, making its fifth straight World Cup appearance, its first lead in the 75th minute.

Coach Alberto Zaccheroni brought the team to Florida for a week of training in hopes of getting his players acclimated to hot and humid weather similar to what they’ll likely encounter in Brazil.

Zambia goalkeeper Toaster Nsabata and Japan forward Shinji Okazaki remained in the game after a leaping collision in front of the net left them bloody in the 17th minute.

The players appeared to butt heads at the height of their jumps. Each remained on the ground for several minutes before play resumed with Okazaki wearing a bandage wrapped around his head and Nsabata sporting one above his right eye.

Greece end goalless streak, win 2-1 against Bolivia

Panagiotis Kone ended Greece’s nearly four-game goalless streak in the first half and the Europeans beat Bolivia 2-1 Friday night, their last friendly before heading to Brazil for the World Cup.

Kone’s goal in the 21st minute was Greece’s first in 358 minutes, since Konstantinos Mitroglou’s score in a 1-1 draw against Romania in November. Greece lost 2-0 to South Korea in March and had 0-0 draws against Portugal and Nigeria in the past week.

Konstantinos Katsouranis added a 54th-minute tally as the Greeks ended a four-game winless streak before a crowd of 11,024 at Red Bull Arena. It last won in that November 3-1 triumph over Romania in a European qualifier.

Bolivia, which finished last in South American World Cup qualifying with Paraguay, extended its winless string to 11 matches. It has not won since a 2-1 victory over Haiti in a friendly on Feb. 6, 2013.

Greece had the better of play early, creating several chances, but was plagued by poor finishing. Theofanis Gekas had the most egregious miss in the 12th minute as Greece tried to capitalize on a midfield turnover.

Georgios Samaras fed Gekas in the middle of the penalty area, and, unmarked, the 34-year-old striker spun and shot wide from 7 yards.

Greece finally converted when Dimitrios Salpingdis chased a ball down on the left and was allowed to approach the penalty area unchallenged. He chipped a ball into the middle, where an unmarked Kone drove it into the right side of the net from 10 yards.

The Greeks continued to dominate in the second half and added a second when Jose Holebas curled a corner kick to the near post, and Katsouranis headed it into the far side netting.

Bolivia outshot Greece in the first half but did not create a particularly dangerous chance until the 58th minute. Juan Carlos Arce was able to break in alone on  goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis, but rolled his shot a yard wide of the right post.

The Bolivians scored in the 70th when second-half substitute Rudy Cardozo hit a left-footed shot from 32 yards that Karnezis appeared to have covered, but inexplicably let go by at the right post.

Greece opens the World Cup against Colombia on June 14, and then will play Japan and the Ivory Coast in Group C.

Ireland and Costa Rica play out 1-1 draw

Ireland and Costa Rica played a 1-1 draw in a pre-World Cup exhibition game dubbed as Freedom Cup 2014 on Friday night.

Ireland struck in the 18th minute when Kevin Doyle headed home a cross from Marc Wilson. But the Irish couldn’t hold the lead against short-handed Costa Rica.

In the 41st minute, defender Giancarlo Gonzalez was handed a red card. The Ticos never stopped hustling and tied the game at 1 in the 64th minute. After a foul in the penalty area crease, Celso Borges scored on a penalty kick, sending the large throng of Costa Rica fans into a cheering frenzy.

Just two minutes later, Ireland had a chance to take the lead on a penalty kick. But Robbie Keane, who has scored seven goals and three assists for the Los Angeles Galaxy this season, was stymied by goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton.

With two minutes of stoppage time winding down, a fan ran on the field and attempted to hug Costa Rica forward Bryan Ruiz. The fan was ejected from the stadium.

Following the game, several fans were tackled by security on the field.

Costa Rica qualified for its first World Cup since 2006 and is in Group D with Uruguay, Italy and England. Costa Rica will open play against Uruguay on June 14.

The Ticos are ranked 28th in the latest FIFA rankings.

Ireland is 70th in the rankings and failed to qualify for the World Cup. The last time Ireland played in the World Cup was 2002.

Colombia eases past Jordon

Colombia used two penalty kick goals to ease past Jordan 3-0 in a warm-up for the World Cup on Friday

Twice Jordan, which did not qualify for the international soccer championship, committed hand balls, once in each half. James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado converted.

Rajaei Ayed Fadel hit the ball with his arm in the 40th minute to set up Rodriguez’s goal. Anas Bani Yaseen grabbed a ball in the goal crease with both hands in the 83rd minute, earning a red card. Cuadrado made the penalty.

Fredy Guarin finished the scoring for Colombia in the 90th with a hard shot past goakeeper Mohammad Shatnawi.

Colombia opens World Cup play on June 14 against Greece. It also is grouped with Ivory Coast and Japan.

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