Now that the Olympics are over, the Japanese men’s national soccer team is reunited with its international stars, Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa, and Yuto Nagatomo to prepare for World Cup qualifications under coach Alberto Zaccheroni. Playing a friendly match against Venezuela at the Sapporo Dome in Hokkaido yesterday, the Blue Samurai were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw. Yasuhito Endo scored in the first half for the Asian champions, but as Honda said, Venezuela performed well and wouldn’t let the Japanese play their way.
Endo scored quickly in the first half of the match, shooting from the center of the penalty area after a cross from Yuichi Komano at the 14th minute. However Venezuela scored back in the second half with a pass from Josef Martinez to Nicolas Fedor, who also scored from the penalty zone. Honda was close to scoring a second from Japan at 21 minutes, but goalkeeper Daniel Hernandez’s reflexes denied the point.
Italian coach Zaccheroni commented that they had several other opportunities in the second half, but they slowed down too much and missed their chances. Manchester United’s recently signed Kagawa said that it felt bad not delivering a win while playing at home, but they would set the disappointment right during the qualifications. Japan will play another friendly in Niigata against the United Arab Emirates on September 6th, followed by hosting Iraq in a qualifier on September 11th.