It was a win, but it was a far from convincing victory for World Cup hopefuls Japan, as they beat 130th-ranked Cyprus 1-0 in their last international friendly match at the Saitama Stadium. The crowd and the pundits expected more from the Samurai Blue as they prepare to compete for the fifth straight World Cup finals and better their performance from last year’s Final 16 finish.
A goal by defender Atsuto Uchida, who plies his trade for German club Schalke, in the dying minutes of the first half was the only goal scored in the game. The 58,564-strong crowd at the stadium were expecting the send-off match to be a goalfest for the Japanese booters but it was not to be so. The team had a lot of shots on goal with attempts by Yasuhito Endo and Shinji Kagawa early on in the match, then later Keisuke Honda, but Cyprus’ keeper Panos Constantinou managed to save all of them. However, two minutes before half-time, Uchida was in the right place and the right time as a shot by Kagawa was deflected back to the defender who put it into the net. The right back was pleased with his goal and dedicated it to the medical staff who brought him back to match fitness after a long time of being injured on the sidelines.
Japan’s coach Alberto Zaccheroni said that he believes the team played “alright” but didn’t expect everyone to be in top condition since they just came from a grueling training camp. What’s important for him is their readiness for the World Cup. ““Our aim is to be ready for our first match,” he said. The team will now be heading to another training camp, this time in Florida, USA before going to Brazil. They will be competing against Cote d’Ivoire, Greece and Colombia in Group C.
[ via Goal ]
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