Japan bow to Serbia in friendly


Japan fell 3-0 at the hands of Serbia in a Kirin Challenge Cup friendly international on Wednesday night at Nagai Stadium in Osaka.

Serbia forward Dragan Mrda scored twice in the first half and midfielder Nemanja Tomic added another goal early in the second half.
It was the final game for Japan before coach Takeshi Okada names his World Cup squad, which will be announced in mid-May.
Okada’s team was missing a number of regular players and his modified lineup struggled both defensively and offensively.
Serbia, who also formed their team around home-based players, threatened the Japan goal only three minutes into the game when Mrda latched on to a long feed, outran the Japan defense and hit the post from the edge of the box.
Twelve minutes later, Mrda made no mistake with a similar move, latching on to a through ball from Radosav Petrovic and firing home from just inside the box.
Japan found it hard to penetrate the tough Serbian defense, but Shinji Okazaki did well to connect with a Yuto Nagatomo cross in the 20th minute, only to be denied by a good save from Serbia goalkeeper Zeljko Brkic.
A minute later, a good header by Yokohama F. Marinos defender Yuzo Kurihara from a Yasuhito Endo corner was also well-saved by Brkic.
Serbia made it 2-0 in the 23rd minute. Mrda had a close-range shot saved by Japan goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki, but the Vojvodina Novi Sad forward recovered well to lift the ball into the net.
The visitors came close again around the 35th minute with attempts from Mrda and Milovan Milovic.
At halftime, coach Okada brought in midfielder Naohiro Ishikawa and forward Keiji Tamada in place of Kurihara and striker Shinzo Koroki, and shifted Yuki Abe from midfield to the backline. His efforts helped to settle the home team and Ishikawa brought some pace to Japan’s attack.
The FC Tokyo midfielder created a chance in the 59th minute when he connected with a Shunsuke Nakamura feed behind the Serbia backline. The FC Tokyo player turned and hit a shot from 15 meters, but was denied by Brkic.
A minute later, Serbia struck again, Tomic curling in a free-kick from 25 meters to make the score 3-0.
Japan had the 46,270 fans on their feet in stoppage time when substitute forward Kisho Yano hit the post from an Ishikawa corner, but that was as close as Japan could manage on the day.
Okada commented: “We were shaky in defense from the start of the game and were being easily beaten by our opponents. We couldn’t use the flanks well either. Our defense got better and created chances in the second half, though. But when we fell behind, our players didn’t have the strength to go forward.
“After going down 3-0, they showed some eagerness to get a goal back, but they didn’t have enough tenacity or persistance to actually score.”
“In today’s game, I wanted to check some points, and I’ve learned that when we are missing some of our regular players, we cannot play in our usual style.”
Asked if he is closer to deciding his final 23 members for South Africa, Okada replied: “To some extent I was able to make my thoughts clear in certain areas today.”
Serbia assistant coach Radovan Curcic, who took charge of the game in place of Radomir Antic, said, “It turned out to be a good game for our World Cup squad selection. I cannot say how many will make it to the final squad as that is up to coach Antic.
“Both sides played fair in a good atmosphere created by the fans in the stands. We can go home with a good result, even though we didn’t have much time to prepare. It was a good occasion for us to show the quality of our league by playing against a good side.”
Curcic added: “Japan is a well-trained team overall with high quality. Their players are of a high standard, too. But today we capitalized on their mistakes well to create our chances.”
In the World Cup, Japan will play the Netherlands, Denmark and Cameroon in Group E, while Serbia will face Germany, Australia and Ghana in Group D.