Kobe, 7 October 2011
Japan defeated Vietnam in this friendly match to retain the UFWC title, and claim the Kirin Challenge Cup. The match was a warm-up for Japan, who play Tajikistan in a World Cup Qualifier on Tuesday. Alberto Zaccheroni’s team have now been Unofficial Football World Champions for a full 12 months, and are unbeaten in 14 UFWC title matches.
A full-to-capacity 30,132 crowd watched this one in the Kobe Wing Stadium, home to J. League club Vissel Kobe. Japan were again without the injured Keisuke Honda, but welcomed back defender Yuto Nagatomo, who had recovered from a broken shoulder. Yasuhito Endo and Maya Yoshida started on the bench, as did keeper Eiji Kawashima, with coach Hiroshima’s Shusaku Nishikawa starting in goal.
Vietnam’s German coach Falko Götz was relying heavily on star striker Cong Vinh Le, who had scored 31 goals in 47 games before today’s match. Also in the Vietnam team were goalscoring midfielders Nguyen Coung Huy and Nguyen Trong Hoang.
It took almost 20 minutes for Japan to create the first real chance. Jungo Fujimoto’s long ball created a chance for Shinji Kagawa, but the Dortmund player, who has been out of sorts in recent weeks, failed to control the ball properly, and his weak attempt was bundled wide for a corner, which was easily claimed by Vietnam keeper Tan Truong Bui.
Then, in the 24th minute, Japan scored, Tadanari Lee applying the finish to Fujimoto’s cross after great work from captain Makoto Hasebe. Japan led 1-0.
The Japanese created a handful of other chances, while Vietnam struggled to string anything together. Fujimoto shot just wide, then Lee had another chance, latching on to Kagawa’s through ball, but poking his shot wide under pressure from the onrushing Tan Truong. Tomoaki Makino met a Nagatomo cross at the back post and headed the ball across the face of the goal when it looked easier to score. But the first half ended with Japan totally dominant, but just one goal ahead.
Japan began the second half with four substitutes – Kengo Nakamura, Genki Haraguchi, Yuzo Kurihara and Yuki Abe all entering the game. And Vietnam started with a new lease of life. First Nguyen Trong Hoang stole the ball from Yasuyuki Konno, only to see his shot saved by Nishikawa. Then, the Japanese goalkeeper was forced to make a brilliant save from a Cong Vinh header, tipping the ball over the bar.
After that bright re-start from Vietnam, Japan again took control of the game, without really creating any clear chances. Makino fired a free kick straight at Tan Truong, and then picked up an injury that saw him stretchered from the field. Maya Yoshida came on as Makino’s replacement.
Japan created a handful of further half chances, with Lee attempting a header and an overhead kick. And any tiny chance Vietnam had of somehow finding an equaliser vanished when Tran Chi Cong was sent off for a professional foul on Lee with just two minutes left to play.
The final whistle blew with Japan winning by a single goal, which hardly demonstrated their near-total dominance of this match. Only Japan’s familiar lack of cutting edge up front prevented Zaccheroni’s team from winning by a much bigger margin.
So Japan remain Unofficial Football World Champions, and go on to defend their title against brand new challengers Tajikistan in a combined UFWC title match / WC qualifier this Tuesday 11 October. Once again, you’ll find full coverage right here.