Japan and Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa scored his first international goal in six months as the Samurai Blue downed a listless New Zealand in a football friendly match on Wednesday evening. This is also the last match they would play at the National Stadium in Tokyo for a long time as it will get a massive facelift in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Japan scored 4 goals in the first seventeen minutes of the game, with a brace for Mainz striker Shinji Okazaki, a first international goal for FC Tokyo defender Masato Morishige and Kagawa‘s goal from the penalty spot after being brought down by a New Zealand defender. Their opponents managed a mini-comeback, with Chris Wood scoring one goal each in both halves, but ultimately the Samurai Blue prevailed in the end. This was also Japan’s last match before coach Alberto Zaccheroni selects the 23-man squad that will be joining the World Cup final stage in Brazil this June.
The Italian manager said that Japan was totally dominant in the first 30 minutes, leaving their opponent helpless. But then the Samurai Blue slowed down and became lax in their defense, allowing New Zealand to marshall their attack. New Zealand failed to qualify for the World Cup finals when they lost to Mexico last year, while Japan is grouped with Colombia, Ivory Coast and Greece and is expected to progress to the knockout stages.
Meanwhile, the National Stadium, host to numerous international matches for the Samurai Blue, will be torn down to make way for a new modern facility that will be the centerpiece of the 2020 Olympics. The match against New Zealand was actually Zaccheroni’s first in the stadium, but he said it’s also nice that he will be known as “the last national team coach to play at the National Stadium.” The friendly match was also the first time the two teams met when their original match had to be cancelled back in 2011, after the Great East Japan Earthquake in March and the massive quake at Christchurch that same year.
[ via Channel News Asia ]