Japan overwhelms New Zealand in National Stadium finale

by Andrew Mckirdy

Staff Writer

Japan came out with all guns blazing to beat New Zealand 4-2 and say farewell to National Stadium in style in a friendly on Wednesday night.

Two goals from Shinji Okazaki and one each from Shinji Kagawa and Masato Morishige gave Japan a four-goal lead inside the first 17 minutes, before Chris Wood pulled one back for New Zealand five minutes before halftime in the last national team game to be played at the stadium before it is demolished and rebuilt to host the 2020 Olympics.

Wood struck again in the 80th minute as Japan failed to find the same intensity in the second half, leaving manager Alberto Zaccheroni to ponder his options with no more games before he chooses his squad for this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.

Zaccheroni named left back Yuto Nagatomo as captain in the absence of the injured Makoto Hasebe, with Kagawa, Keisuke Honda and Okazaki forming an attacking line behind lone striker Yuya Osako.

Wood almost stunned Japan when he redirected a free kick just outside the post in the third minute, but the miss would cost the visitors dearly when Okazaki opened the scoring a minute later.

Kagawa played a pass through the middle that Okazaki looked to have miscontrolled, but the Mainz striker recovered to beat defender Bill Tuiloma to the ball and slip it past goalkeeper Glen Moss.

Kagawa turned up the heat just two minutes later, earning himself a penalty after a mazy dribble into the New Zealand box and slotting the spot kick low into the corner.

Morishige then registered his first international goal with a header at the near post direct from a Honda free kick, and Honda was again involved for Japan’s fourth as he flicked on a Kagawa pass for Okazaki to smash home.

Wood went close again in the 29th minute as New Zealand emerged from its shell-shocked daze, and the Leicester City striker finally got his reward when he found the back of the net from a seemingly impossible angle in the 40th minute.

Goalscoring chances were far scarcer in the second half, with substitute Hiroshi Kiyotake going closest with a drive past the post in the 74th minute.

But Wood capped an impressive display with his second of the game in the 80th minute, volleying past Eiji Kawashima to give the scoreline a measure of respectability for New Zealand.

“I wish we could have started 10 minutes into the game, because for over 80 minutes we were pretty competitive and scored a couple of good goals,” said New Zealand manager Neil Emblen, whose team failed to qualify for the World Cup after losing a playoff against Mexico.

“We were a little shell-shocked and unfortunately we couldn’t start the way we wanted to.”

  • Danny

    Congratulations, Japan Samurai Blue! Honda, Kagawa and Okazaki was impressive with their play, but Japan have to work more on Defense.