8 Jun 2009

Japan hails 'Blue Samurai' after booking World Cup spot

7:50 am on 8 June 2009

Japan's football team has returned to a hero's welcome after booking their place at next year's World Cup.

The "Blue Samurai" became the first team to join hosts South Africa at the 2010 tournament after a 1-0 victory over Uzbekistan in Tashkent on Saturday.

Japan were later joined by South Korea and Australia, leaving just one more automatic Asian qualifying spot up for grabs.

Striker Shinji Okazaki's goal secured Japan's qualification along with Australia in Group One with both sides on 14 points after six games.