Japan gets Asian Games double in soccer, baseball

Wednesday, November 29th 2006, 12:31 pm
By: News On 6

DOHA, Qatar (AP) _ Japan's soccer and baseball teams each won their first games at the Asian Games on Wednesday as the countdown continued to the sold-out opening ceremony Friday before 50,000 spectators.

With an all-amateur lineup, Japan opened its baseball campaign with a 17-2 win over the Philippines.

Kenji Suzuki hit a two-run homer for Japan, while the Philippines didn't get its first hit until the fourth inning.

The Japanese soccer team, led by Hiroyuki Taniguchi's two goals, beat Pakistan 3-2. Japan led 3-0 after 57 minutes, then held on when Pakistan got goals from Muhammad Rasool in the 61st minute and Naveed Akram in the 82nd.

In other early matches, India and Hong Kong played to a 1-1 draw and Oman beat Malaysia 3-1.

Japan, which won this year's World Baseball Classic, has left all of its professional players at home. But it had no problem Wednesday, scoring eight times in the first inning and forcing the game to end after five innings due to the tournament mercy rule.

In Wednesday's other game, first baseman Zhang Yufeng knocked in two runs with a single and homer to lead China to a 4-1 win over Thailand.

China scored three runs in the fourth inning on a walk, error, Liu Guangial's run-scoring single and Zhang's single. Zhang homered in the eighth inning.

Thailand scored its only run in the sixth inning on pinch hitter Sampahangsit Nattapong's single.

Pitcher Lai Guojun went six innings for China, allowing one run on four hits, with relievers Zhao Guanshang and Guo Youhua holding Thailand scoreless the rest of the way.

China coach Luo Weijun said his team, missing four players through injury, is using the Asian Games as preparation for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

``They are young, energetic and cooperate well,'' said Luo.

Meanwhile, the artistic director for Friday's opening ceremonies at Khalifa Stadium said it would surpass his last Olympic-sized project, the Sydney 2000 Games opener.

``We have very, very grand aspirations and we are doing things in this ceremony that have never been done before,'' said Australian David Atkins.

The ceremony will feature 7,000 performers, 10,000 costumes and 32,000 pyrotechnical effects, with special emphasis on Qatar's Bedouin and sea cultures.