Japan 2-1 J-League Team As One
Osaka, 29 March 2011
Gambare Nippon Charity Match
Scorers: Endo, Okazaki (Japan), Miura (J-League)
A sell-out 50,000-strong crowd watched this charity match between UFWC champions the Japanese national side and a J-League all-star ‘Team As One’, raising money and spirits for those affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on 11 March. Obviously, this was not a UFWC title match, and Japan’s Unofficial Football World Champions title was not at stake.
Defying injuries and illness, Japanese players travelled from around the globe to take part. Outside of the Kincho Nagai Stadium, fans queued to make donations and buy merchandise at stalls manned by former players and managers.
Before kick-off, both sets of players wore ‘Ganbare Nippon’ T-shirts, which roughly translates as ‘You Can Do It Japan’. Japan captain Makoto Hasebe and J-League skipper Yuji Nakazawa both made speeches to the crowd, before the hugely successful Japanese pop star Mai Kuraki sang the national anthem. A moment of silence followed, impeccably observed.
Japan lined up with a full-strength side, under regular coach Alberto Zaccheroni. Shinji Okazaki (gastroenteritis), Yuto Nagatomo (virus), and Keisuke Honda (leg injury) all defied the odds to make the starting eleven. The J-League team was selected by Dragan Stojkovic, coach of Japanese champions Nagoya Grampus. 46-year-old Stojkovic even threatened to make an appearance from the subs’ bench, alongside the 44-year-old veteran Kazuyoshi ‘Kazu’ Miura. (Stojkovic didn’t play, but Miura played a big part.)
With the match underway, the J-League team was first to threaten, with Sato forcing Eiji Kawashima into a good save. But the class of the national team soon showed. First Keisuke Honda was fouled outside the area, and Yasuhito Endo curled a brilliant free kick around the wall and into the net. The Japanese players removed their black arm bands and held them to the sky in a poignant celebration.
Honda was involved again in the second goal, sliding a clever through ball to Shinji Okazaki, who beat the offside trap and chipped keeper Seigo Narazaki. 2-0 to Japan within 20 minutes. Honda was the best player on the pitch, and he went close to scoring a couple of times as the UFWC champions bossed the remainder of the first half, but there were no further goals.
Half-time expectedly saw a raft of substitutions, with so many players keen to be involved in the game. The Japan team was almost totally changed, and among the J-League subs was Shunsuke Nakamura, soon followed onto the pitch by Kazu Miura. And it was Miura who scored the only goal of the second half, latching onto a Tulio header to stroke a right-footed shot past the keeper – another brilliant finish, and a goal for the J-League.
The match finished 2-1, but regardless of the scoreline, Japan was the winner.
The starting line-ups were:
Japan: Kawashima, Konno, Inoha, Nagatomo, Uchida, Yoshida, Endo, Hasebe (captain), Maeda, Okazaki, Honda
J-League: Narazaki, Araiba, Nakazawa (captain), Tulio, Ryang, Ogasawara, Kengo Nakamura, Ono, Komano, Okubo, Sato
If you would like to make a donation to the Japanese Red Cross you can do so via the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.