Kirin Cup ends with zero goals as Japan, Czech Republic close out tourney


Staff Writer

Japan drew 0-0 with the Czech Republic on Tuesday as the three-game Kirin Cup tournament ended without a single goal being scored.

The competition gave Japan its first fixtures on home soil since winning the Asian Cup in Qatar in January, but Alberto Zaccheroni’s side could find no way past the resolute Czechs at Yokohama’s Nissan Stadium after being held scoreless by Peru in Niigata last Wednesday.

The result preserved Zaccheroni’s unbeaten record since taing over in September last year, but the Italian was more interested in bedding in his favored 3-4-3 formation than worrying about the score.

“Of course we wanted to win tonight, but we haven’t had so much time to work together and to implement the new system, so I’m satisfied with what I saw,” Zaccheroni said. “Some of the players weren’t in great physical condition after coming back from Europe, so considering everything we did well.

“We’ve got the World Cup qualifiers starting soon, and I’m hoping we can go on and build on this.”

Captain Makoto Hasebe also saw progress, but Japan could find no way past Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech as the Chelsea man thwarted Shinji Okazaki and Tadanari Lee with an outstanding second-half double save.

“We knew their ‘keeper was good, but if you want to win games you have to score,” Hasebe said. “We’ve had almost a week since the Peru game so we’ve been able to improve and put together some combinations. Maybe this was a boring game for the fans, but we’re trying to rise to the challenge.”

Defender Masahiko Inoha and goalkeeper Eiji Kawasahima collided in dangerous territory as Japan made a jumpy start to the match, and a Jan Rajnoch header over the bar soon after almost punished the home side for more sloppy defending.

But Hasebe settled nerves with a run and shot that fizzed just wide of the post in the 12th minute, and Yasuhito Endo made Cech work with a free kick that the ‘keeper had to tip over the bar as Japan gradually assumed control of the first half.

Chances, however, remained scarce, and Maya Yoshida did not help matters when he redirected a Lee cross over the Czech bar with a stretching header shortly after the restart.

Jan Rezek fired a powerful shot at Kawashima’s midriff as the visitors stepped up a gear, but it was Japan that had the best chance of the match when first Okazaki, then Lee drew a tremendous double save out of Cech in the 77th minute.

Honda then lashed a free kick wide from the edge of the box as the match moved into its final 10 minutes, before CSKA Moscow teammate Tomas Necid poked over the bar at the other end.

There was just enough time for Honda to launch two late free kicks over the bar, but it was not enough to break the deadlock and all three countries shared the trophy.

Jol replaces Hughes


Fulham has hired Martin Jol to replace Mark Hughes as manager of the English Premier League club.

The 55-year-old Dutchman has agreed to a two-year contract with the west London side, with the option for a one-year-extension.

Hughes resigned as Fulham manager last week after one season in charge.

Since being ditched by Tottenham in 2007, Jol has coached Hamburg and Ajax.

Sevilla makes change

Seville, Spain

Sevilla has named Marcelino Garcia Toral as its head coach for next season.

Sevilla finished a disappointing fifth place in the Spanish league last season, falling short of its goal of playing in the Champions League. Instead, it will be in the Europa League, a competition it won 2006 and 2007.