Japan to face Costa Rica, Zambia in World Cup tuneup matches

Kyodo

Japan will prepare for the World Cup in Tampa, Florida, where the Asian champion will play Costa Rica and Zambia in friendlies on June 2 and 6, the Japan Football Association said Friday.

Japan’s send-off for the June 12-July 13 tournament in Brazil is on May 27 against Cyprus at Saitama, with the team set to depart for the United States two days later.

The games against Costa Rica and Zambia will be held at Raymond James Stadium, home to the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Costa Rica is also in the World Cup, and has been drawn with Italy, Uruguay and England. Zambia won the 2012 African Cup of Nations over Cote d’Ivoire, which Japan will play in its World Cup opener on June 14.

Alberto Zaccheroni’s side will also face Greece and Colombia in the first round.

“I chose Florida as a campsite because we need to acclimatize to the heat and humidity in Brazil while minimizing the travel,” Zaccheroni said. “Florida made for the ideal destination.

“Costa Rica are a side good enough to qualify for the World Cup, and Zambia’s march to the African Nations Cup title is still fresh in my memory.”

He added: “These two games will be extremely important when we bear in mind what kind of these teams we will be up against at the World Cup.”