Thursday, February 12, 2009

Japan frustrated by scoreless stalemate with Australia

If the pressure was well and truly on Japan coach Takeshi Okada going into his side's World Cup qualifier with Australia in Yokohama, then the resultant 0-0 draw will have done little to alleviate it.

Japan dominated in front of 65,571 fans at Yokohama International Stadium, but a combination of poor finishing and dogged defending from the Socceroos saw Pim Verbeek's team snatch a hard-earned point.

Missing English Premier League stars Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka and Brett Emerton through injury, Pim Verbeek's decision not to field a single recognised striker from the start spoke volumes for Australia's approach to this clash.

It was left to the Blue Samurai to dictate the tempo as they surged forward in search of an early goal to calm the nerves of the home fans, and they almost found one when Nagoya Grampus striker Keiji Tamada hit the side netting after just five minutes.

Japan frustrated by a dour Australia in Yokohama
Japan's best chance arrived from a Shunsuke Nakamura free-kick, but the Celtic wizard fired his effort well over the crossbar.

When Gamba Osaka midfielder Yasuhito Endo took over free-kick duties late in the first half he failed to even beat the wall - however the diminutive midfielder did manage to sting Mark Schwarzer's palms with a stinging long-range drive with twenty minutes remaining.

For their part Australia managed just a solitary shot on goal for the entirety of the match, as Verbeek's plan to take a point from this tricky-looking fixture came to fruition.

Australia's spoiling tactics were lamented in some circles Down Under, but on the whole the pragmatic Dutchman has received faint praise for taking 10 points from the opening four final round qualifiers.

Japan's next clash is at home to Bahrain in Saitama on March 28, while on April 1 Australia take on Uzbekistan in Sydney.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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