TIANJIN, China (AFP) - Everton's Victor Anichebe got one of the goals as 1996 Olympic champions Nigeria edged a gallant Japan 2-1 here on Sunday in their men's football Group B clash.
Victor Obinna had grabbed the first for the African giants while substitute Anichebe gave them a 2-0 lead before the Asian side replied through another substitute Yohei Toyoda for a deserved consolation goal.
Japan forced the early pace garnering three corners in the first 10 minutes but failed to make the most of their opportunities.
Nigeria gradually eased into the match at their own pace but Chibuzor Okonkwo, one of the few Nigeria-based players in the squad, provoked the ire of Iranian referee Masoud Moradi in the 16th minute when he was booked for a blatant dive in the penalty area.
The first shot on target, a weak one at that coming from Olubayo Adefemi in the 20th minute was easily gathered by Shusaku Nishikawa.
However, Nigeria should have taken the lead just before the half-hour mark as Hertha Berlin's Solomon Okoronkwo pulled the ball back for Peter Odemwingie, but the Lokomotiv Moscow striker shot over the bar from just five metres out.
Japan too spurned a great chance in the 32nd minute as Michihiro Yasuda got down the left and passed superbly to Hiroyuki Taniguchi but with the goal at his mercy he tapped the ball into the arms of a grateful Ambruse Vanzekin.
Nigeria went desperately close in the 35th minute as in a well worked move the ball came out to Sani Kaita but his fierce shot went just over the bar.
Japan started brighter in the second-half and a smart piece of work by Shinji Kagawa saw him dupe Onyekachi Apam on the byline but his shot from a narrow angle was turned away for a corner by Nishikawa.
Nigeria, though, took the lead just before the hour mark through a delightful move which ended with Odemwingie's delicate backheel setting up Obinna, the Chievo striker making no mistake with his shot and celebrating it with a five cartwheel extravaganza.
Japan showed some fighting spirit and gave Vanzekin his first real save of the match in the 66th minute as Keisuke Honda let rip from long distance with a lovely curling effort.
Nigeria wrapped up the three points with just over 15 minutes remaining as Obinna got down the left and crossed to the unmarked Anichebe who brought the ball down and shot fiercely past Nishikawa.
Japan, though, reduced the deficit in the 79th minute as substitute Yohei Toyoda fired the ball past Vanzekin to set up a nervy last 10 minutes for the Nigerians.
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