A full-strength Japan were unable to overtake a persistent Venezuela in a 1-1 draw on Wednesday night at Sapporo Stadium.
The midsummer friendly presented a chance for coach Alberto Zaccheroni to gauge the fitness of his players against last year's Copa America semi-finalists before the Samurai Blue's September 11 World Cup qualifier against Iraq.
With defenders Atsuto Uchida, Yasuyuki Konno, and Yuzo Kurihara suspended for the match, Yuichi Komano and Masahiko Inoha joined the likes of Inter left back Yuto Nagatomo, CSKA attacker Keisuke Honda, and Manchester United newcomer Shinji Kagawa.
But although Japan's high-profile stars had several moments of brilliance, they were more often than not unable to capitalise on big chances in front of the Venezuelan goal.
The hosts' lone score was in fact the product of two J-League veterans, as Komano's fine cross in the 15th minute was received by Yasuhito Endo, who cooly slotted the ball home.
Venezuela returned fire in the second half, when substitute Josef Martinez broke through on the right side before delivering the ball to Getafe striker Nicolas Fedor, who managed to stuff the ball in despite being entangled by the defender.
A series of substitutions for Japan left Honda as the lone striker, but despite the best efforts of Nagatomo and Stuttgart man Shinji Okazaki the final whistle was blown with both teams at honours even.
We did so-so after scoring the opening goal,” Zaccheroni said after the match. “I would have liked to see us convert more chances. We had several opportunities in the second half as well, but the pace of the game fell.
“What I wanted to test was our defensive line, and Inoha and [substitute Hiroku] Mizumoto did well.”
Japan will have one more tune-up friendly when they host the UAE on September 6, while Venezuela will travel to Peru on the same day for a World Cup qualifier.
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