Japan draw 0-0 with Venezuela


Japan were held to a scoreless draw by Venezuela in a Kirin Challenge Cup friendly match on Tuesday evening at Kyushu Oil Dome in Oita.

Preparing for this summer’s World Cup, Japan coach Takeshi Okada fielded a couple of “new” faces – midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara and fullback Yuhei Tokunaga – in his team’s first game of the year.
But the Samurai Blue were frustrated by the young Venezuela side’s tight marking.
The hosts also defended well, shutting down Venezuela’s attempted counter-attacks in midfield, but the Japanese players lacked match fitness and cohesion, and struggled to put together their usual fast-tempo attacks.
Japan still created a number of chances, especially early on. Ogasawara, back in the lineup for the first time since the 2006 World Cup, fired off a shot from the edge of the box in the 15th minute and then tried to head in a cross from Yoshito Okubo, while Kengo Nakamura hit wide from outside the box in the 19th minute.
After good control on his chest, Japan defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka tried a spectacular overhead shot shortly before the break, while Okubo fired another shot wide and Ogasawara had a mid-range effort saved by Venezuela goalkeeper Leonardo Morales.
But Japan struggled early in the second half and around the hour mark Okada sent forward Sota Hirayama and fullback Yuichi Komano in for Nakamura and Tokunaga, respectively.
The changes helped revive the Japanese attack, with Komano delivering crosses and Hirayama using his size to create chances up front.
In the 71st minute, midfielder Junichi Inamoto had a snap shot denied by Morales.
Okada brought on midfielder Mu Kanazaki and forward Hisato Sato in the 76th minute, but they could do little to break down Venezuela.
“It was a pity we couldn’t win,” Okada said. “Our players weren’t under too much pressure and took care of the defense, but we didn’t do so well in the first half.”
“Today was more about our players getting their game feeling back, but I also wanted them to start improving how they apply themselves.
“We were able to fix our problems in the second half and started playing better, so I feel we can move on to the East Asian Championship in good form.”
Okada added: “I was able to test some of our new players, too. So, overall, I am pretty satisfied with this game.”
Nakamura commented: “We couldn’t play our passing game as much as we hoped, but having played today, we were able to improve our fitness and get back into match mode.”
Midfielder Yasuhito Endo agreed. “It’s been a while since we played, so all of us were a bit rusty, not to mention erratic. But this game will help us move on to the next step.”
Venezuela coach Cesar Farias said, “I think we played well and according to plan, which was to kill the speed of Japan’s attack and take the initiative.”
“But Japan has a strong defense and, as I expected, they didn’t allow us to get near the goal. That’s what world-class football is all about. I am glad that we could learn something from them and go home, feeling satisfied,” the Venezuela coach noted.

Japan—Seigo Narazaki, Yuji Nakazawa, Marcus Tulio Tanaka, Yuhei Tokunaga (Yuichi Komano, 59th), Yuto Nagatomo, Mitsuo Ogasawara (Mu Kanazaki, 75th), Yasuhito Endo, Junichi Inamoto, Kengo Nakamura (Sota Hirayama, 59th), Yoshito Okubo (Shinji Kagawa, 84th), Shinji Okazaki (Hisato Sato, 75th). Coach, Takeshi Okada
Venezuela—Leonardo Morales, Giovanny Romero, Jose Manuel Rey, Gabriel Cichero, Carlos Salazar, Franklin Lucena (Grenddy Perozo, 85th), Giacomo Di Giorgi, Agnel Flores (Juan Fuenmayor, 73rd), Alejandro Guerra (Jesus Gomez, 81st), Alejandro Moreno (Edder Farias, 90th), Fernando Aristiguieta (Alexander Rondon, 68th). Coach, Cesar Farias.
Cautions—Carlos Salazar (Venezuela), Marcus Tulio Tanaka (Japan), Alejandro Guerra (Venezuela), Giovanny Romero (Venezuela)
Referee—Fan Qi (China)