Japanese football will bid farewell to an old friend on Wednesday with the National Stadium in Tokyo to host its final Japan match ahead of renovation for the 2020 Olympic Games.
Aside from being a chance for Samurai Blue players to audition for 2014 FIFA World Cup™ selection, the encounter against New Zealand will take on added meaning.
The match brings together the two teams after their original meeting was cancelled as a result of the earthquake which struck Japan in 2011, while New Zealand suffered its own tragedy in Christchurch that same year.
The 56-year-old stadium was originally built with the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games in mind, while football has often taken centre stage with regular national team and major domestic club matches including - since 1967 - the annual Emperor’s Cup final.
International matches have included the Intercontinental Cup between the champions of Europe and South America during the 1980s and 1990s, as well as the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup final.
Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni said: “I know the stadium has long served as a symbol of Japanese football. This will be my first game at the National Stadium, but it will be nice if people can remember me as the last national team coach to play at the National Stadium.”
Japan plays Cyprus on 27 May before departing for the World Cup, where they have been drawn alongside Greece, Cote d’Ivoire and Colombia.
New Zealand failed to qualify for Brazil after losing to Mexico in a play-off.