10/08/11, Sapporo Dome, Sapporo
Scorers: Kagawa (2), Honda
Japan finally found their scoring touch and retained their UFWC title in some style in this friendly match – if any game against big rivals South Korea can be considered a friendly.
Alberto Zaccheroni’s Japan have been strong in defence, but often struggled in attack during their reign. That all changed today, with Shinji Kagawa scoring two goals in a performance that demonstrated why the Japanese are the Unofficial Football World Champions.
Visitors South Korea arrived without Lee Chung-Yong, who has a broken leg, and his obvious replacement Ji Dong-Won, who was required by his new side Sunderland. Despite these absences, Korea did cause some problems for Japan, particularly in the opening half-hour, with Lee Keun-ho and Kim Jung-woo both going close with headers, and Celtic’s Cha Du-ri of Celtic forcing a save from distance from the excellent Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.
After that, however, Japan took control. In the 33rd minute, after a sustained spell of Japanese pressure, Tadanari Lee (Japanese-born and of South Korean descent) brilliantly flicked the ball into the path of Kagawa, who evaded two defenders and drove a shot past goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong.
The score was 1-0 at half-time, but seven minutes into the second half Japan scored again. A driving run and shot from Yuichi Komano forced Jung into a save, only for Hiroshi Kiyotake to control the rebound and tee up Keisuke Honda, who passed the ball into the back of the net.
Japan’s victory was assured two minutes later by Kagawa. The Borussia Dortmund star pushed forward from midfield, played the ball wide to Kiyotake, continued his run into the box, and clipped Kiyotake’s cross over the diving Jung.
South Korea belatedly came to life in the closing stages, with Koo Ja-cheol missing his side’s best chance, but there was no way past Japan’s defence. The game finished 3-0, and Japan remain UFWC champions, now unbeaten in 11 consecutive title matches.
After defeating South Korea, Japan’s next fixture sees them face North Korea on 2 September in Saitama. That’s Japan’s first World Cup 2014 qualifying match – also in group C are Uzbekistan and Syria. So Japan will be playing to retain their UFWC title, and to win qualifying points for Brazil 2014. We’ll have full previews and coverage right here.