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Zaccheroni’s Japan held to scoreless draw against South Korea

Kyodo

Japan wrapped up the World Cup year with a 0-0 draw in an intense friendly at South Korea on Tuesday evening.

It was another highly charged affair between the archrivals at Seoul World Cup Stadium, where Japan played for the first time in seven-and-a-half years.

Coach Alberto Zaccheroni made four changes to the team that defeated Argentina 1-0 on Friday in Japan’s last match before the Asian Cup in January.

The Italian played Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s Shusaku Nishikawa in goal for the injured Eiji Kawashima, and Daisuke Matsui took the place of another injury victim in Shinji Okazaki, who scored the only goal in the Argentina game.

Zaccheroni opted for Jubilo Iwata’s Ryoichi Maeda over Italy-based Takayuki Morimoto up front and started Yuichi Komano at right-back ahead of Atsuto Uchida.

Yet Komano’s evening did not last long as the World Cup defender was stretchered off in the 15th minute after colliding into Bolton Wanderers’ Lee Chung Young.

Lee took out Komano from behind during an aerial challenge inside the box. The Jubilo Iwata man writhed in pain on the ground while holding his right arm.

Uchida replaced Komano. Details of Komano’s injury were not immediately available.

Despite the intensity, chances were a premium in the opening half for both teams. Keisuke Honda forced a diving save from goalkeeper Jung Sung Ryong, and Shin Hyung Min headed over the bar for South Korea from close range.

The second half proved to be more of the same and in the 58th minute, the hosts had the best chance of the match as Yuto Nagatomo cleared a header by World Cup forward Park Chu Young off the line.

Japan was denied a penalty in the 77th minute, when Matsui’s cross clearly went off the right arm of Choi Hyo Jin inside the area. Captain Makoto Hasebe pleaded with the referee, but his protest went unanswered.

Honda was free on the run in the dying minutes, but his stinging shot was kept out by Jung before the final whistle signaled the end of a long year.

Manchester United’s Park Ji Sung missed the game having aggravated a right-knee injury. Former Tottenham Hotspur Lee Young Pyo wore the captain’s armband in Park’s stead.

Yasuhito Endo became the fourth Japanese player to win 100 caps. The 30-year-old Gamba Osaka midfielder joined a select group including Masami Ihara (122), Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi (114) and Yuji Nakazawa (110).

Japan has been grouped with Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria in Group B of the Jan. 7-29 Asian Cup. Japan’s first game against Jordan is on Jan. 9.