• Kyodo


Japan coach Zico has decided not to risk playing Shinji Ono in Wednesday’s friendly away to Ukraine and the injury-weary midfielder will return to the Netherlands, the Japan Football Association said Monday.

Ono had hoped to return to action after missing out in the 2-2 draw with Latvia on Saturday, but Zico decided it was in the Feyenoord star’s best interests not to take part.

The Feyenoord star was set to make his comeback in Riga but was sidelined after the little toe on his right foot flared up on the eve of the match.

However, Ono, who has only recently recovered full fitness after breaking a bone in his right foot 48 hours before Japan’s World Cup qualifier away to Bahrain in June, was eager to play and had earlier declared himself fit.

“I am getting myself ready and hope to play, otherwise there is no point in being here,” said Ono. “I think I’ll be OK.

“There’s no problem kicking the ball. It just hurts a bit when I run. The toe hurt before I came here and I think I just aggravated it a bit the day before the Latvia game. I think I can play through the pain.”

Japan looked to be on its way to a comfortable victory against Latvia after an early strike from Naohiro Takahara and a second-half penalty from Shunsuke Nakamura.

But Zico’s men collapsed after Vits Rimkus reduced the deficit in the 67th minute and Andrejs Rubins punished a glaring defensive error to snatch an equalizer for the home side in the 89th minute.

Ukraine, the first team to qualify for the World Cup finals from the European zone, boasts 2004 European Player of the Year Andrej Shevchenko and Andrei Voronin.

Meanwhile, Koji Nakata, whose defensive mishap against Latvia led to the tying goal, has vowed to put his Baltic blunder behind against Ukraine on Wednesday.

“I’m just glad it was a friendly and not the World Cup finals,” Nakata said Monday.

Inamoto’s worries

KIEV (Kyodo) Japan midfielder Junichi Inamoto fears his lack of first-team action at West Bromwich Albion may force him to seek a loan move away from the English Premier League, and possibly England, when the transfer window reopens in January.

Inamoto believes he has done enough to warrant a place in the team, but the 26-year-old has been constantly overlooked by Baggies boss Bryan Robson.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.