Uruguay spoils Aguirre’s debut with Japan

by Gus Fielding


Japan coach Javier Aguirre tasted defeat in his first game in charge as the Asian champion went down 2-0 to Uruguay in a friendly on Friday night.

Edinson Cavani took advantage of sloppy defending to put Copa America holder Uruguay in front on 34 minutes, and substitute Abel Hernandez capped a miserable debut for Aguirre by slotting home the second midway through the second half at Sapporo Dome.

“Uruguay are a very strong team so you can’t afford to make mistakes against them,” said Aguirre. “We made two defensives mistakes and that decided the match tonight.”

The former Mexico coach went mainly for experience in his starting 11, while giving a couple of new faces their first taste of national team action.

Keisuke Honda, given the captain’s armband after regular skipper Makoto Hasebe pulled out of the squad on Thursday, and Yuto Nagatomo were among seven in the lineup from the World Cup squad that crashed out in the first round in Brazil.

Uncapped Sagan Tosu defender Tatsuya Sakai and Sanfrecce Hiroshima forward Yusuke Minagawa both made their debuts, while Sporting Lisbon’s Junya Tanaka made his first international appearance since debuting against Iceland in February 2012.

After a pedestrian start to the game, Cristian Rodriguez headed Nicolas Lodeiro’s free kick over the bar on 14 minutes before the 22-year-old Minagawa spurned a golden chance to give Japan the lead.

Shinji Okazaki did well to create space for himself and whip in an inch-perfect cross from the left flank, but Minagawa was left holding his head in his hands after sending a free header over the crossbar.

There was more woe for the hosts as a defensive error from Sakai led to the Uruguayans breaking the deadlock 11 minutes before halftime, Paris Saint-Germain striker Cavani bundling home a through ball from Diego Rolan.

Tanaka tried his luck from distance shortly after FC Tokyo’s Yoshinori Muto had come on for Minagawa to make his debut, but his left-footed drive failed to trouble goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.

The South Americans then doubled their lead in the 73rd minute after Japan failed to clear their lines, Hernandez poking through the legs of Eiji Kawashima after the Japan ‘keeper could only parry a shot from Lodeiro.

Muto nearly pulled one back in the 88th minute, but his well-taken strike came back off the left-hand post.

Japan plays Venezuela in Yokohama on Tuesday in the second of six friendlies lined up for Aguirre’s men before launching their defense of the Asian Cup in Australia in January.