Warm-up wins offer few clues to Brazil squads

Source:Reuters Published: 2014-3-8 0:03:01

Shinji Kagawa of Japan in action during the friendly against New Zealand on Wednesday in Tokyo Photo: CFP

Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni was delighted with his side's lightning-fast start to Wednesday's 4-2 friendly win over New Zealand but the performance has not persuaded the Italian to finalize his 23-man squad for the World Cup in Brazil.

Japan scored all their goals in the first 17 minutes against New Zealand, who missed out on the World Cup after being thrashed by Mexico in a playoff, and Zaccheroni was pleased they had delivered a quality performance despite missing key players.

"It was especially good in the first 20 minutes, though what was especially good about that was that we were able to play so skillfully at such high speed," Japan's Kyodo News quoted the Italian as saying.

"You have to have the skill plus the speed to compete at international level, and we were fully at the international level in the first 20 minutes.

"Several players I hadn't seen so much of before. The purpose of the game was to see how well the players could remember what we do and express what we do and also how far the newer players can fit in."

Playing for the final time at the National Stadium in Tokyo, which will be pulled down and rebuilt for the 2020 Olympic Games, Shinji Kagawa thrilled the home crowd by setting up the opening goal for Shinji Okazaki in the fourth minute.

The Manchester United midfielder, who has struggled for game time under manager David Moyes, then won and converted a penalty to make it 2-0 in the seventh minute.

Masato Morishige scored his first goal for the Blue Samurais in the 11th minute, heading in a free kick from Keisuke Honda on the right before the AC Milan player backheeled a pass for Okazaki's second goal to give Japan a 4-0 lead.

Japan were missing captain Makoto Hasebe through injury, while defender Atsuto Uchida and striker Yoichiro Kakitani were also left out due to fitness issues.

The friendly was Japan's last game before Zaccheroni names his World Cup squad but he wished he had more opportunities to see his players compete at international level.

"This is very unfortunate but the players will be returning to their clubs and I expect them to make every effort to impress," he said.

"I want to repeat that I have not decided which 23 players to pick and I want players in both Japan and abroad to keep showing me their ability and power."

Japan will play in Group C in Brazil along with Colombia, Cote d'Ivoire and Greece, who were beaten 2-0 by fellow Asian World Cup qualifiers South Korea on Wednesday.

South Korea's Park Chu-young shoots during the friendly against Greece in Athens on Wednesday. Photo: CFP


World Cup countdown

Park Chu-young, making his first international appearance in more than a year, boosted his chances of making the South Korean World Cup squad by scoring after 18 minutes in a comfortable win over a disappointing Greece in Athens.

Germany-based striker Son Heung-min scored Korea's second after 55 minutes.

South Korea coach Hong Myung-bo said Park, who has joined second tier English side Watford from parent club Arsenal until the end of the season, had looked good in the final training session and slotted into the system well.

"There wasn't any systematic­ problem with Park Chu-young joining the team because he had already collaborated with these players in 2012 during the London Olympic Games," Yonhap News quoted Hong as saying.

"I wanted to give him more running time but I replaced him after the first half because of a minor injury in his left knee."

Hong was happy that his young defenders had coped with the pressure.

"There were some critical moments but we didn't lose goals and that was a great encouragement," he added. "With less than 100 days until the World Cup finals, I think checking up on everyone's condition is important."

Lost duo

The other World Cup qualifiers from the Asian Football Confederation­, Australia and Iran, slumped to defeats against Ecuador and Guinea.

The Socceroos were three up at halftime but surrendered four goals in the second half to lose 4-3. Goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak was sent off with half an hour remaining after he gave away a penalty.

Coach Ange Postecoglou was upbeat despite the loss.

"We learnt some good lessons tonight both about what we can do and can't do," he said in a news conference.

"I have huge belief in the direction we're heading and the players we have. There's going to be some bumps along the way."

Australia have a tough World Cup campaign, meeting world champions Spain, the Netherlands and Chile in Group B.

"Obviously going down to 10 men against a quality opponent was always going to be tough for us, but up until that point, it reaffirmed my belief in the direction we are heading."

Iran's hopes of making an impact in Brazil, took a bashing with a surprise­ 2-1 loss to Guinea at home.

Asia's best FIFA-ranked team at No.38 face Nigeria in Curitiba in their opening World Cup Group F match before taking on Argentina and Bosnia.

"We have to learn from the defeat. Iran need more warm-up matches to prepare for the World Cup," coach Carlos Queiroz told reporters.

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