Japan to play New Zealand in World Cup warm-up

 Japan will play New Zealand in a Kirin Challenge Cup friendly match on March 5 in Tokyo as part of their preparations for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
 The New Zealand match – Japan’s first friendly for 2014 – will be the last Japan game at the National Stadium before it is rebuilt.
 The Samurai Blue will also play a Kirin Challenge Cup international friendly match at Saitama Stadium on May 27, which will be Japan’s send-off game before the team heads to a training camp and then on to Brazil.
“My objective for 2014 is to have the best possible preparation for the World Cup so we can play in the tournament at peak fitness,” said Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni. “Having learned who we will be playing at the World Cup, we can now start our preparation in earnest.
 “I know we have to look at our opponents, but I’m confident in our ability and that we can do well as long as we show our best in Brazil. I’d like us to bring home the best results possible.”
 Japan were originally scheduled play New Zealand in late March 2011, but the match was postponed after the East Japan earthquake and tsunami that hit on March 11 that year.
 New Zealand Football Association President Frank Van Hattum said in a statement: “Both New Zealand and Japan suffered tremendous losses following the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch and  March 2011 East Japan earthquake, and football becomes secondary in such tragic times.
 “We are happy that New Zealand can assist Japan in their preparation for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and honoured to be a part of the historic final match in the National Stadium before it is rebuilt for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.”
 In the 2014 calendar announced on Thursday, Japan will have four friendlies on home soil in the post-World Cup period: in Sapporo on September 5, Yokohama on September 9, Toyota on November 14 and Osaka on November 18. An overseas tour has been scheduled for early October, while the 2015 AFC Asian Cup will take place in January in Australia.
 Meanwhile, the Japan women’s team, gearing up for the AFC Asian Cup (May 14-25) in Vietnam, will take part in the Algarve Cup (March 5-12) in Portugal and play New Zealand on May 8 in Osaka. The New Zealand game will be the Nadeshiko’s send-off game for the Asian tournament, which will also serve as the Asian qualifiers for the FIFA Women’s World Cup that will take place in 2015.
 The Nadeshiko will visit Yamagata for the first time to play a friendly on September 13 before going to the Asian Games in Incheon, Korea Republic, from the middle of September.
 “We want to secure our qualification for the World Cup,” said Nadeshiko Japan boss Sasaki Norio. “As we haven’t won the Asian Cup, we’d like to win the tournament this time and give ourselves a boost in the run-up to the World Cup in Canada.”
 Sasaki is hoping to see more players move up from the Japan U-23 women’s side, who are scheduled to participate in an international tournament in Spain in early March.
 “I have assessed many young players this year, and next year will be another important year for us to reinforce our team as we aim to retain our world title in 2015,” Sasaki noted.
 The young Japanese women’s side will play in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica from March 15 to April 4.
 “Our players showed good development at the Asian qualifiers – the AFC U-16 Championship in September,” Japan U-16 women’s coach Takakura Asako said. “Now I am hoping to play as many as games possible at the World Cup and aim to play in the final there. That will help them grow to become Nadeshiko players in the future.”
 Futsal Japan will defend their AFC Futsal Championship title in Vietnam from April 30 to May 10. Ahead of the tournament, the team is expected to make a warm-up tour to Spain from late March.