Japan wound up their 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ preparations with another disappointing performance - a scoreless draw with Zimbabwe in a training match. The draw at least brought to an end a run of four successive defeats for Japan, to Serbia, South Korea, England and Côte d'Ivoire.
Japan had wanted to play an African side as a tune-up for their FIFA World Cup opener against Cameroon on Monday, but Mozambique told Japan they would skip the scheduled match, only hours after losing 3-0 to Portugal in a friendly in Johannesburg on Tuesday night, forcing the Japanese Football Association into a quick re-think. "We wanted to make the announcement only after confirming that the Zimbabwe team had arrived here," said JFA technical director Hiromi Hara.
The training match was played over three 30-minute periods with Japan's first-team regulars, including rising CSKA Moscow midfield star Keisuke Honda, competing only in the first one. Honda played as Japan's lone frontman, a new role given to him by coach Takeshi Okada to boost the Blue Samurai's firepower. Japan have managed only one goal in their warm-up games, through Marcus Tulio Tanaka in the 2-1 defeat by England in Graz.
Honda said he thought the Zimbabwe workout, espepcially the first period he took part in, had been good for the team. "Although we didn't score in such a short period, we managed to find several patterns that we can use against Cameroon. I take it as a positive," he said.
Honda, who helped CSKA Moscow reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals after moving from Dutch club Venlo in January, was easily Japan's most productive player, spraying passes out to both flanks and into the box. Yoshito Okubo latched on to one of them, but fired it straight at the Zimbabwe goalkeeper.
"I don't think Cameroon will let us play easily like this," said Wolfsburg defensive midfielder Makoto Hasebe after taking part in the first period. "We came so close to scoring several times. I believe we will surely have a good chance to beat Cameroon as they have yet to hit top form."