Japan 0-0 Peru
Tohoku Denryoku Big Swan Stadium, Niigata, 01/06/2011
While FIFA followers watched a dodgy election, UFWC fans watched an actual football match, as Unofficial Football World Champions Japan took on Peru in this 2011 Kirin Cup opener. There were no goals, and the draw means that Japan retain the UFWC title – and go on to defend it against against the Czech Republic next Tuesday 7 June in Yokohama. But it could so nearly have been very different, with Peru unlucky not to win this game.
Japan went into the game fielding a much changed line-up, unbeaten coach Alberto Zaccheroni trying a 3-4-3 formation, with Kashima Antlers midfielder Daigo Nishi given a debut, and Keisuke Honda, Yuto Nagatomo and Maya Yoshida left on the substitutes’ bench. Peru coach Sergio Markarian named an exclusively Peruvian-based team, giving some younger players a chance in the absence of stars like Paolo Guerrero and Claudio Pizarro.
In an even first half, Nishi put in one tantalising cross that no Japanese player could get on the end of, and Makoto Hasebe had a couple of half chances, but Japan’s hero was goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, making a great save from Adan Balbin.
Keisuke Honda replaced Nishi at half-time as Zaccheroni reverted to 4-4-2, and he came closest to scoring for Japan with a free kick, but the second half belonged to Peru. Kawashima was forced to make several excellent saves, including a last gasp stop from Yoshimar Yutun, and Peru hit both Japanese goalposts through Raul Ruidiaz and Luiz Ramirez as they pushed for a winning goal that never quite came.
So Japan can consider themselves fortunate to remain UFWC champions – and unbeaten under Zaccheroni. They will need to improve in order to see off the next challenge from the Czech Republic.