OTHER NEWS IN SOCCER

Last modified on June 14, 2017

IN 2017

World Cup Asian Preliminaries Final Round: vs Iraq
On June 13, Samurai Blue played in Iran, a neural site as Iraq was decided dangerous for the match. The team did not have Shinji Kagawa who was out from dislocating his shoulder in a friendly match. Keisuke Honda was captain. He controlled the pace of the game. He kicked from the corner, leading to Yuya Osako's goal. In the sweltering 37 degrees weather, the Samurai appeared to have lost focus in the later half. The rival goaled. It ended a draw. Japan was able to win a point retaining its first place in Group B. It has 2 more games to play.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries Final Round: vs Thailand
The game took place in Saitama 2002 Stadium on Mar 28. Last game's hero, Konno was absent due to an injury. But without him, the team had no problem winning. First, it was Shinji Kagawa, then Shinji Okazaki headed in a goal. Yuya Kubo shot a beautiful goal. Finally, Hiroshi Kiyotake's corner kick matched Maya Yoshida, heading the ball in. Samurai won 4 to 0.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries Final Round: vs United Arab Emirates
The Japanese team was in trouble as it faced UAE in Al Ain on March 23. Captain Makoto Hasebe left the team due to a knee surgery. He was replaced by Yasuyuki Konno. The 34 year old Gamba Osaka player did more than he was expected. He goaled 7th minutes in the later half, following Yuya Kubo's perfect shoot in the first 14th minute. Japan defeated UAE 2 to 0.

IN 2016

World Cup Asian Preliminaries Final Round: vs Saudia Arabia
Japan could not lose this game at Saitama Stadium on Nov 15. And it started out well. Hiroshi Kiyotake kicked in a penalty in the 45th minute. Then in the later half, Genki Haraguchi received a heel pass from Shinji Kagawa kicking in a goal. Just before the game ended Saudi's Osama Hawsawi goaled. Japan won 2 to 1.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries Final Round: vs Australia
Samurai Blue was expecting a difficult match on Oct 11 as its never defeated Australia. In the 5th minute, Genki Haraguchi goaled a pass from Keisuke Honda. Honda had a chance to goal but failed. Then in the later half,Haraguchi gave away a penalty kick to Australia. The game ended a draw. Manager Vahid Halihodzic's blamed the tie on Honda saying he could've played better.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries Final Round: vs Iraq
It's home game for Samurai Blue. But fans were not confident as some players joined the team just a few days before the match on Oct 6. In the 26th minute, Keisuke Honda passed the ball to Hiroshi Kiyotake, who passed it to Genki Haraguchi who goaled. However in the later half, Iraq equalized. There was an attempt by Honda to goal but he hit the post. Then, during injury time, birthday boy Hotaru Yamaguchi responded to Kiyotake's cornier kick and goaled. Japan won 2 to 1.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries Final Round: vs Thailand
Samurai Blue played in Thailand on Sept 6. In the 18th minute Genki Haraguchi goaled by reacting to a cross by Hiroshi Sakai. Samurai struggled against Thailand, but 30 minutes into the later half Takuma Asano goaled Japan won 2 to 0.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries Final Round: vs U.A.E
On Sept 1, it was held in Saitama Stadium. Samurai Blue assembled 3 days before the game. Of the star playes Yuto Nagatomo of Intel was not present due to an injury. In the 11th minute, Keisuke Honda goaled. UAE equalized. 9 minutes into the later half, UAE goaled again. Then Takuma Asano appeared to have goaled. Honda claimed he saw the ball in the goal. But the referee disregarded Honda's claim. Japan lost 1 to 2 on home ground.

Kirin Cup Final: Japan vs Bosnia Herzegovina
Samurai Blue faced the national team of the country manager Vahid Halilhodzic hails from on June 7 in Osaka. Hiroshi Kiyotake scored a goal.But Milan Duric goaled twice and Japan lost 1 to 2.

Kirin Cup: Japan vs Bulgaria
At Toyota Stadium on June 3, Samurai Blue was aggressive at the goal. It started with Shinji Okazaki's goal in the 4th minute. Then Shinji Kagawa goaled twice. Maya Yoshida goaled in the later half, follwed by Takashi Usami. Japan won 7 to 2. After the match, the stadium called out to Yuto Nagatomo to congratulate him for proposing to an actress.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries 1st Round Group E: vs Syria
The game was played in Saitama Stadium on March 29. Shinji Okazaki was appointed captain.And he responded to that expectation with the game's first goal. Then Shinji Kagawa responded well to Keisuke Honda's pass and goaled. Honda himself headed in a goal. Then it was Kagawa again. Genki Haraguchi kicked in the team's final goal to beat Sytria 5 to 0. Japan secured its place in the Asian finals.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries 1st Round Group E: vs Afghanistan
Samurai had a breeze in winning the game on March 24 at Saitama Stadium. It started with Shinji Okazaki's goal. Hiroshi Kiyotake, Maya Yoshida and Mu Kanazaki also goaled. Afghanistan's own goal gave Japan a 5 to 0 win without Keisuke Honda in the game.

Japan wins title at Asian Under-23 Championship/
On Jan 30 Japan faced South Korea in the finals of the championship at Khalifa@Stadium in Doha. South Korea's Kwon Chang Hoon goaled in the first half of the game. Immedietly in the later half,Jin Seoung goaled. Japan did not give up. Takuma Asano goaled on a pass by Shinya Yajima. Then Asano kicked in a goal to lead the match. Japan won 3 to 2. Japan also qualified to the Rio Olympic Games, for its 10th Olympic appearance.

IN 2015

World Cup Asian Preliminaries 1st Round Group E: vs Cambodia
Cambodia played well against Japan in Phnom Penh on Nov 17. The first half of the game was nil. In the later half, Shinji Okazaki failed in a penalty kick. But a few minutes after he managed to goal. Then towards the end of the game, Keisuke Honda who played from the later half headed in a goal to win 2-0.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries 1st Round Group E: vs Singapore
The game was played in Singapore on November 12. Mu Kanazaki kicked in the first goal. Then it was Keisuke Honda. In the later half of the game, it appeared the ball which Takashi Usami kicked coincidentally hit Maya Hoshida's foot and went into the goal. With that Japan won 3 to 0.

vs Iran: friendly match
It was a frustrating game for the Samurai played on October 13. Iran gained a penalty kick from Maya Yoshida's foul play. It scored. Then Yoshinori Muto headed in a goal. It was a 1 to 1 game.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries 1st Round Group E: vs Syria
Syria was thought to be Japan's toughest rival in the group. They faced eachother in Oman on Oct 8 instead of in the warring Syria. It's in the 2nd half all the action happened. In the 10th min Keisuke Honda kicked in a penalty goal. Then Shinji Okazaki goaled. And just before the game ended, Takashi Usami goaled giving Japan a 3 to 0 win. It's also surged to first place in the group.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries 1st Round Group E: vs Afghanistan
Its the first game away from home in the preliminaries. On Sept 8, the game was played not in Afghanistan due to instability there, but in Tehran. Thousands were in the stands. Just 7 minutes into the game Shinji Kagawa goaled. Then Masato Morishige responded to Keisuke Honda's great defense and goaled. In the later half, Kagawa goaled again. Then it was Shinji Okazaki twice, and Keisuke Honda as he fell. Japan won 6 to 0.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries 1st Round Group E: vs Cambodia
The match was played at Saitama Stadium on Sept 3. The star players represented Japan such a Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa. They were given the mission to win the game with middle shoots. The first to goal was Honda. Then in the later half Maya Yoshida and Shinji Kagawa kicked the ball into the goal. Japan won 3 to 0 but many were not satisfied with the result as Singapore shot just too much towards the goal.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries 1st Round Group E: vs Singapore
On June 16 the game was played at Saitama Stadium. Initially it was scheduled in Singapore. But as Singapore was hosting the Southeast Asian Games, it's asked for the change of venue. Samurai was dominating the ball.But Singapore's goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud bounced on the ball automatically. At one time the ball appeared to have slightly entered the ball, but he forced it out. The first 2018 World Cup qualifier for Japan ended 0 to 0.

vs Iraq: friendly match
It's the last international match before Japan plays in the World Cup Asia preliminaries. On June 11, the game was held at Nissan Stadium. Starting for the first time in the national team, Takashi Usami. The 23 year old supported Shinji Okazaki's goal. The first to goal in the game was Keisuke Honda. Tomoaki Makino followed up on Shinji Kagawa's corner kick. Genki Haraguchi kicked in the team's final goal to win 4 to 0.

vs Ukraine: friendly match
It's Halihodzic's 2nd game as Japan coach on Mar 31. Its in Tokyo's Ajinomoto Stadium. 6 min into the game, Toshihiro Aoyama of Sanfrecce Hiroshima goaled. Then in the later half, Shinji Okazaki headed in a goal. Then young new faces contributed. They include Takashi Usami and Gaku Shibasaki. Japan won 5 to 1.

vs Tunisia: friendly match
The national team played under new coach Vahid Halilhodzic who replaced Javier Aguirre. It's on Mar 27 in Oita. Among those chose were Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki. Okazaki goaled and so did Honda. Japan won 2 to 0.

Asian Cup:quarter finals vs U.A.E
In Sydney the game took place on Jan 23. The first to score, U.A.E side. It was Ali Mabkhout. It was very close to the end of the game, Samurai Blue finally kicked in a run. It was Gaku Shibasaki. Extra time was played. But neither side scored. A sudden death shootout took place. Keisuke Honda missed. So did Shinji Kagawa. Japan lost.

Asian Cup:Group D vs Jordan
The match was held in Melbourne on Jan 20, near the Australian Open site. A pass to Shinji Okazaki went to Keisuke Honda and Honda goaled in the 24th minute. In the later half, Shinji Kagawa goaled. Japan won 2 to 0 and advanced to the knock out round ranking first in Group D.

Asian Cup:Group D vs Iraq
The game on Jan 16 was played in Brisbane. It was in the 23rd minute, Keisuke Honda had a successful penalty kick. He had close shoots towards the goal a few times but none of them made it. Japan won 1 to 0. After the match, the team threw Yasuhito Endo up in the air as he celebrated his 150th game as a national team player.

Asian Cup:Group D vs Palestine
A good start for the Samurai Blue in its first match for the year. On Jan 12, Yasuhito Endo goaled. Then it was Shinji Okazaki who changed the course of the ball from Shinji Kagawa with the head. Then it was Keisuke Honda, followed by Maya Yoshida. Japan won 4 to 0.

IN 2014

vs Australia
On Nov 18, the game was played in Osaka's Yanmar Stadium. It's an important match as Samurai Blue gear up for Asian Cup next year. Neither side goaled in the first half. In the later half, Yasuyuki Konno came in. It's the first time he plays for Aguirre. He goaled. Then it was Shinji Okasaki. During additional time, Australia's Tim Cahill goaled. It was a 2 to 1 win for Japan.

vs Honduras
The old timers were back with Samurai Blue for the game on Nov 14 at Toyota Stadium. They include Makoto Hasebe, Yasuhito Endo,and the handsome Atsuto Uchida. In the 9th minute Maya Yoshida headed in a goal. In the 41th minute, Keisuke Honda goaled. Then it was Endo who shot a goal. In the later half more goals were scored by the Samurai Blue. Japan won 6 to 0.

vs Brazil
The game on Oct 14 was played in a sell out crowd of 51,000 in Singapore's new national stadium. 22 year old superstar Neymar was Brazil's captain. For Japan it was Eiji Kawashima. In the 18th minute, Neymar goaled. 3 minutes into the later half Neymar goaled. He went on to score 2 more goals. Brazil bean the Blue Samurais 4 to 0.

vs Jamaica
Shinji Kagawa joined Aguirre Japan for the first time in the game played in Niigata on Oct 10. Keisuke Honda, Yuto Nagatomo, Shinji Okazaki are some who were on the starting line up. In the 16th minute, an own goal by Jamaica gave Japan a goal. The game ended 1 to 0.

vs Venezuela
This game was played in Yokohama on Sept 9. Goals were scored in the later half of the game. First time national team players, Yoshinori Muto and Gaku Shibasaki goaled. The game was a 2 to 2 draw.

vs Uruguay
On Sept 5, Japan played its first game in the post World Cup season. It's also the first under new skipper Aguelia Its faced Uruguay's selection of players. Japan's captain was Keisuke Honda. In the end, Japan lost 0 to 2.

IN 2013
Confederations Cup: vs Mexico
The two teams already eliminated in the first round faced eachother on June 22. In the first half, the Samurai were in control of the ball. But in the later half it was the Mexicans. Javier Hernandez goaled twice. Shinji Okazaki kicked in a goal but Japan lost again 1 to 2.

Confederations Cup: vs Italy
The match took place in Recife on June 19. The Samurai won a free kick in the first half and Keisuke Honda kicked it in the 21st minute. Then Shinji Kagawa volleyed the ball towards the goal and made it. However, Daniele De Rossi headed in a goal in the 41st minute. In the later half, tragedy for Japan. It gave up an own goal. Then Mario Balotelli succeeded int he penalty kick. Shinji Okazaki equalized. Italy succeeded in taking the lead again in the 86th minute. Japan had more chances, but the game ended 4 to 3. With this loss, Japan has been eliminated in the first round of the Cup.

Confederations Cup: vs Brazil
The Samurai was in Brasilia to face Brazil on June 15. Just 3 minutes into the game, Neymar goaled. Japan had a chance to make the goal, but Keisuke Honda's free kicks could make it. In the later half, Paulinho goaled. During injury time, Jo kicked in the goal. Japan lost 0 to 3.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries Final Group B: vs Iraq
The game was held in Doha on June 11 as Iraq was too dangerous. Keisuke Honda did not play. Makoto Hasebe was not the captain of the Samurai as he had yellow cards taking him out of the game. Iraq played aggressively in the later half. But near the end of the game, Shinji Okazaki dribbled the ball, passed it to Yasuhito Endo who passed it back to Okazaki who goaled. With that Japan won 1 to 0 ending its games in the preliminaries.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries Final Group B: vs Australia
Japan's best players assembled for the game in Saitama Stadium on June 4. The include Keisuke Honda, Shinji Okazaki and Shinji Kagawa. Blue Samurai passed the ball nicely but could not goal. In fact in the later half, the opponent goaled first. It's Tommy Oar who looped a shot over goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima. During injury time Japan side won a penalty kick. Keisuke Honda shot right into the goal to equalize. The game ended a 1 to 1 tie in front of a 62,172 crowd. For the first time Japan secured its place in the World Cup in a game played at home.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries Final Group B: vs Jordan
Japan played the game in Amman on 26 March. It was without Yuto Nagatomo and Keisuke Honda who were out due to injuries. The shock for Japanese fans was, the undefeated team lost the first goal just before the end of halftime. It's to Khalil Bani Ateyah. Then in the second period, it was Jordan's Ahmad Ibrahim that goaled. Shinji Kagawa kicked in one. But that was it. Japan lost 1 to 2. After the game a complaint was made towards laser beams directed towards Japanese players during the game. Especially noted was towards Eiji Kawashima and Shinji Okazaki.

IN 2012
World Cup Asian Preliminaries Final Group B: vs Oman
The game was held in Oman on Nov 14. In the 20th minute, a pass from Yuto Nagatomo resulted in a goal by Hiroshi Kiyotake. However in the later half Oman equalized. Samurai Blue faced difficulty controlling the game but in the 44th minute, a pass from Yasuhito Endo was struck into the goal by Shinji Okazaki. Japan won 2 to 1.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries Final Group B: vs Iraq
The game was played in Japan's Saitama Stadium on Sept 11. It was like a homecoming for Brazilian legend Zico who was coaching the Iraqi team. Shinji Kagawa was not in the line up. He was out due to injury from practice. In the 25th minute, Ryoichi Maeda headed in a goal with the ball passed by Shinji Okazaki. Both sides attempted many times to aim at the goal. The game ended 1 to 0. With this, Japan accumulated its point to 10.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries Final Group B: vs Australia
Blue Samurai played in Brisbane, Australia on June 12. It was a very competitive game. In the beginning of the game, the Aussies had control of the ball most of the time and attacked Japan's goal. But goalkeeper Kawashima defended well. Then in the 22nd minute Yuzo Kurihara was flashed a yellow card. In the later half, Aussie Mark Millgan was booked a yellow for the 2nd time, ousted from the game. Then a great pass from Keisuke Honda to Kurihara who goaled. However, 5 minutes after that the Aussie's side equalized. Kurihira was later ejected from the game with a red card. Then close to the end of the game, Japan was given a penalty kick. But before Honda kicked, the whistle was blown. It ended 1 to 1.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries Final Group B: vs Jordan
It was a very good game for Blue Samurai on June 8,again held at Saitama Stadium. In the 18th minute, Ryoichi Maeda goaled. Then in the 22nd minute it was Keisuke Honda. He goaled in the 31st minute. Then in the later half, he succeeded in shooting into the goal on a penalty kick. It's a hat trick for Honda. Shinji Kagawa and substitute Yuzo Kurihara goaled too. Japan won 6 to 0.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries Final Group B: vs Oman
The game was held before a record crowd at Saitama Stadium or over 63,500 fans on June 3. Keisuke Honda was back with the national team for the first time in 10 months. It's after seriously injuring himself playing for CSKA Moscow. In the 12th minute he kicked in a goal. He was passed the ball from Inter's Yuto Nagatomo. In the later half, Ryoichi Maeda goaled. Then in just a few minutes, he was followed by Shinji Okazaki. Japan won 3 to 0.

Japan qualifies for Olympic Games
On Mar 15, the young Samurai's played against Bahrain at the National Stadium in Tokyo. During the game there was a moderate earthquake rocking the site, but the game continued. It won 2 to 0 and took the top position in Group C which includes Syria and Malaysia.

IN 2011
World Cup Asian Preliminaries 3rd Round Group C: vs North Korea
For the first time in 22 years, the Japan's national team played in North Korea. It's on Nov 15. It was not easy for the team to travel there, stuck in the airport for 4 hours reported of confiscated of food among others. During the national anthem ceremony, Japan was booed. During the game, Kim Ill Sung Stadium filled with local residents cheering on their team in unison was the biggest threat to the Japan side. In the later half of the game, North Korea's Pak Nam Chol headed in a goal to take the lead. North Korea lost a player after a red card. Still Japan was unable to goal. Japan lost 0 to 1 and it's Alberto Zaccheroni's first loss as Japan's skipper. But the result didn't matter as Japan's already won its ticket to advance.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries 3rd Round Group C: vs Tajikistan
On Nov 11 the game was held in Tajikistan. The ground condition was bad, but the Blue Samurai achieved goals. The first was by Yasuyuki Konno. In the later half, Shinji Okazaki headed in from a pass by Shinji Kagawa. Then 21 minutes later Ryoichi Maeda goaled. Okazaki goaled again during injury time to give his team a 4 to 0 win.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries 3rd Round Group C: vs Tajikistan
The game was played on Oct 11 at Nagai Stadium in Osaka. Japan constantly had control of the ball. Mike Havenaar score the Blue Samurai's first goal. It was followed by more. It's by Shinji Okazaki, Shinji Kagawa in just the first half. Then it was Mike Havenaar again in the later half with a head in. Kengo Nakamura goaled. Then Shinji Kagawa goalred again. Japan clobbered Tajikistan 8 to 0.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries 3rd Round Group C: vs Uzbekistan
The game was played on Sept 6 in Uzbekistan. The Japan side hardly had control of the ball in the first half of the game. In fact in the 7th minute, Uzbekistan's Server Djeparov goaled. In the later half, in the 65th minute, Shinji Okazaki headed in a goal to equalize. The game ended 1-1. Still Japan leads the group with 4 points.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries 3rd Round Group C: vs North Korea
Amid worries of an approaching typhoon, the game was played in Saitama Stadium on Sept 2. The Samurais were without stars, Keisuke Honda who's out due to a serious knee injury as well as Yuto Nagatomo. The team had a tough time in the game playing against a team ranked only 114th by FIFA while Japan is 15. Near the end of the game, North Korea lost a player to a red card. The Japanese side attacked the North Korea goal continously with the ball hitting the bar, but not quite making it inside the goal. Then, Maya Yoshida goaled. And with that Japan won 1 to 0.

Samurai Blue vs J League Team As One
The national team consisting of basically the Asian Cup champions played against J.League all stars on Mar 29 in Osaka's Nagai Stadium before a crowd of over 40,000. It was a charity match to support those who have lost everything or almost everything in the massive earthquake and tsunami on Mar 11. The national team was made up of the best players including Keisuke Honda, Yuto Nagatomo. Honda won a penalty kick and that led to Yasuhito Endo's successful goal. 4 minutes after that Honda's pass to Shinji Okazaki led to Okazaki's goal. Those players were gone in the later half, replaced by other national team players. Whereas the J League all stars consisted of Shunsuke Nakamura, Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, and 17 minutes into the game 44 year old Kazu Miura played. Just 20 minutes after, Kazu received a pass from Marcus Tulio Tanaka and lifted the ball slightly which made it into the goal. The crowd was delighted to see the long time superstar perform his samba. The game finished 2 to 1.

Asian Cup final: Japan vs Australia
Japan's midfielder and young star Shinji Kagawa was not playing. He returned to Japan to treat his broken foot which will take 3 months to heal. And that means, he will not be able to play this season with Borussia Dortmund. Even without him, the Blue Samurai was united, playing against Australia on Jan 29. In Japan, the game was broadcast live just before midnight. But many were up to watch the event. The game went into extra time. In the 4th minute in the later half, a swift pass between Japanese players was repeated. And in the 2nd try, Yuto Nagamoto kicked the ball to Tadanari Lee who with a left foot volley goaled. With that Japan won 1 to 0. It's the country's 4th Asian Cup title. Keisuke Honda was name MVP of the tournament.

Asian Cup semifinals: Japan vs South Korea
The two longtime Asian rivals faced eachother on Jan 25. In the 23rd minute, South Korea gained a penalty kick following Yasuyuki Konno banged into his opponent with his shoulder. Ki Sung-Yueng kicked in the game's firs goal. But in the 36th minute, a great dribble by Keisuke Honda to Yuto Nagatomo and Ryoichi Maeda goaled. The game went into extra time. In the 7th minute Keisuki Honda was given a chance for a penalty kick. But he hit the goalkeeper. Hajime Hosagai rushed forward and goaled. Just when Japan was obviously trying to defend its lead, another Honda who replaced injured captain Makoto Hasebe was called a foul and a penalty given to the Koreans. Hwang Jae-Won had a sensational goal. But it was a disaster for the Koreans in the penalty shoot out. Eiji Kawashima saved the ball twice in a row. And the 3rd, Hong Jeong-Ho missed the goal. From the Japan side, Keisuke, Shinji Okazaki were successful. Nagatomo was not. But Konno netted in a decisive one in a 2 to 2 game. For the first time in more than 5 years, Japan defeated South Korea.

Asian Cup quarterfinals: Japan vs Qatar
In a stadium filled with the home team, Japan played on Jan 21. At the start, Qatar had more control of the ball. Uruguayan born Sebastian carried the ball through a sparse Japanese defense and goaled in the 12th minute. Perhaps that served as a wake up call for Japan. Shinji Okazaki liftedthe ball and Shinji Kagawa with his head, goaled. In the later half, Maya Yoshida received his 2nd yellow card in the game, and was ejected. Qatar won a penalty kick and goaled. On top of that the Blue Samurai had to play with only 10 on the team. Japan showed a smooth pass from Keisuke Honda to Okazaki, connecting to Kagawa's goal to equalize. Then in the 44th minute, from Kagawa, the ball went to Masahiko Inoha who goaled. Japan defeated Qatar ranked 105, 3 to 2.

Asian Cup: Japan in Group B vs Saudia Arabia
In Doha on Jan 17, Japan faced a team that's leaving the Asian Cup. But Japanese media was not so confident about the Blue Samurai because Daisuka Matsui and Keisuke Honda were out from injuries, and goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima was suspended from the game. There was no need to worry with Shinji Okazaki playing forward. In the 8th minute, he goaled. 5 minutes after, he headed in a goal. Then in the later half, Ryoichi Maeda headed in. And Okazaki again, to achieve a hat trick. Japan won 5 to 0 in the rain,to make it to the quarter finals with the most points in Group B.

Asian Cup: Japan in Group B vs Syria
The Japanese side had control of the ball in the first half on the game on Jan 13. In the 35th minute, Keisuke Honda's pass made it to Shinji Kagawa, which Daisuke Matsui neatly sent to captain Makoto Hasebe who kicked in a goal. But Japan's happiness did not continue for very long. In the later half, when goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima collided with Syria's Sanharib Malki during what was initially called an offside, the call was reversed by an Iranian refree. Kawashima was flashed a red card. And the Syrian side won a penalty, and Firas Al Khatib kicked in passed goalkeeper replacement Shusaku Nishikawa. Then 6 minutes after that, Keisuke Honda managed to kick in a penalty. It's between the Syrian goalkeeper's leg. Japan won 2 to 1 and it's the first official game win under Alberto Zaccheroni. Japan gained 3 points to surge to first place in the group at this point.

Asian Cup: Japan in Group B vs Jordan
The game was played in Doha on Jan 9. It was a young Japanese team which Alberto Zaccheroni heads a serious competition for the first time. The Japan side had control of the ball most of the time. But when Jordan's Hassan Abdel Fattah's shot touched Maya Yoshida's foot in the first half, it went into the goal. Japan which is ranked 29 while Jordan 104 did not expect to give up a lead. In the later half, the Japanese including Shinji Okazaki, Makoto Hasebe and Keisuke Honda had a shot toward the goal but did not quite make it. Then it was during injury time, a corner kick by Shinji Kagawa was delivered by Makoto Hasebe to a perfect position allowed Maya Yoshida to head in a goal. The 2 teams ended with a draw.

IN 2010
Friendly Match: Japan vs South Korea
The 2 Asian rivals faced eachother in Soeul on Oct 12. The Japan side was constantly in control of the ball. Keisuke Honda had a few big chances to make a goal, but did not quite make it. Neither side was able to goal and the game ended 0 to 0.

Kirin Challenge: Japan vs Argentina
It's Alberto Zaccheroni's debut match as the national team coach on Oct 8, at Saitama Stadium. Japan's top international player, such as Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa. In the 19th minute, Makoto Hasebe aimed for the goal. The Argentine goalie stopped it and dropped the ball. With that Shinji Okazaki run for that ball and kicked in a goa. Argentine star Lionel Messi had a chance to aim for the goal on penalty kicks, but failed to hit the target. It's a historic 1 to 0 win for Samurai Blue.

Friendly match: Japan vs Paraguay
Japan played a match considered a revenge of the World Cup game against Paraguay on Sept 4 in which it lost in the penalties. A crowd of 65,000 packed the stands of Yokohama New head coach Alberto Zaccheroni looked on from the stands the team he will be in charge soon. The players include Keisuke Honda, Yasuhiko Endo, Shinjui Okazaki and Eiji Kawashima. Shinji Kagawa of Borussia Dortmund who was not on the World Cup squad goaled 14 minutes into the later half. With this goal Japan achieved a revenge against Paraguay.

Japan gets new national coach
With only a few days until the national team plays its first international match after the World Cup, the team's head coach was introduced. On Aug 31, Alberto Zaccheroni held a press conference. He's an Italian and he coached Juventus and AC Milan. He said he likes the world "samurai".

Kirin Challenge: Japan vs South Korea
It's the last international match for the national team before leaving the country for games leading up to the World Cup. It was held in the rain on May 24 at Saitama 2002 Stadium. Already in the 6th minute, South Korea's Park Ji Sung goaled. Japan had its chance of targetting the goal too, but missed on several occasions. Then in the latter half, Korea's Park Ju Young kicked in a goal. Japan lost 0 to 2.

IN 2009
Japan in Group E
A draw for the 2010 World Cup took place in Capetown on Dec 4. Japan is in Group 3, with number 3 ranking the Netherlands, 26th ranking Denmark, and 11th ranking Cameroon. Japan's current ranking is 43rd, and in anycase is expected to have a tough time getting through this round.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries final round: vs Australia
The game was held in Melbourne on June 17. The Japanese team headed there wearing masks do to the H5N1 scare. In the 39th minute,Marcus Tulio Tanaka headed in a goal. Japan had many other chances to goal. But in the later half, Tim Cahill goaled twice. Japan lost 1 to 2, and finished the Asian finals 2nd.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries final round: vs Qatar
The Japanese team was home and played in Yokohama on June 10. Manager Takeshi Okada did not sit with the team as he was ejected in the previous game. Japan scored in the 2nd minute from Qatar's own goal. Then in the later half,the Qatar side kicked in a penalty goal to equalize. It was a disappointing game for Japan.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries final round: vs Uzbekistan
With one more win, Japan can advance to the World Cup in South Africa. On June 6, the national team played in Uzbekistan. In the 9th minute Shinji Okazaki headed in a goal. He was passed the ball by Kengo Nakamura. But it was a very tough game, especially the last 10 minutes. The Uzbekistan side was mostly in control of the ball. Japan was desperate to defend. Then the unheard of occurred. Makoto Hasebe was flashed a red card for elbowing a rival. Then immediately after that, manager Takeshi Okada was told to leave. But Japan was able to defend with 10 players on the field and won the game 1 to 0, and clinched the ticket to South Africa.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries final round: vs Bahrain
Japan fought at home on Mar 28 against Bahrain before a crowd of 57,000. Neither side goaled in the first half. Then in the later half Shunsuke Nakamura's penalty kick, hit the defenders and sent into the goal. With that, Japan won 1 to 0.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries final round: vs Australia
Japan faced Australia, regarded as its toughest competitor in the final round. The game was played at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama on Feb 11. Shunsuke Nakamura was there. Keiji Tamada, Hasebe aimed at the goal. But did not quite make it. The game ended 0 to 0. Japan is 2nd behind Australia in Group A.

IN 2008
Club World Cup
The final was played between Manchester United and Liga de Quito on Dec 21 at the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama. It was in the 73rd minute, Wayne Rooney kicked in a goal and that was the decisive winning goal for his team.

In the game against Gamba Osaka and Pachuca competing for 3rd place, Gamba's Masato Yamazaki goals. And with that Gamba secured 3rd place.

It was clear Gamba Osaka was excited to play against Manchester United. It was an enjoyable game on Dec 18. Manchester goaled twice in the first half of the game, including a header by Cristiano Ronaldo. In the lagter half, the Gamba side had 3 goals. Although the Gamba lost, it was a game fans enjoyed 5 to 3.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries final round: vs Qatar
Japanese media were all concerned about the Japanese team's downgraded level of players as Yuji Nakazawa and Seigo Narazaki were injured. Shunsuke Nakamura was earlier thought unable to participate, but he joined the team just in time in Doha. On Nov 19, Japan played well. Tatsuya Tanaka killed in his team's first goal. It was followed by a great shoot by Keiji Tamada. Following a pass from Shunsuke Nakamura, Turio Tanaka goaled. Japan won 3 to 0.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries final round: vs Uzbekistan
All talks were focused on the fact that Brazilian legend Zico is an advisor for the Uzbekistan team. He was expected to come to Japan but did not make it. It's a relief to many in Japan as Zico, a former Japan national team head coach's presence may impact Japanese players sentiment. In the 28th minute Uzbekistan's Maksim Shatskikh goaled. In the 40th minute Keiji Tamada goaled to equalize. The Japan side attacked the Uzbekistani goal many times, but could not goal. The game ended a 1 to 1 tie.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries final round: vs Bahrain
On Sept 6, Japan played in Bahrain in soaring temperature. It's tough for those who were playing in Europe. But those players, Shunsuke Nakamura, joined the Japanese team. And Nakamura succeeded in a free kick. Yasuhito Endo completed a penalty kick. Another Nakamura, Kengo goaled in the later half. But Japaese players did not have an easy game. With 3 minutes left, the Bahrain side goaled, and Japan also allowed an own goal. It ended a 3 to 2 game for Japan

World Cup Asian Preliminaries Group 2: vs Bahrain
On June 22, the match was played in rainy Saitama Stadium. Japan had from time to time penalty kicks but failed to goal. It was just before the game ended, that a ball which Atsuto Uchida headed, bounced on the field then went inside the Bahrain goal. With this, Japan won 1 to 0 to win first place in Group 2 of the the 3rd round of the qualifier.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries Group 2: vs Thailand
On June 14, the match was played in Bangkok. In the 23rd minute, Turio Tanaka's head struck perfectly the ball that came from Yasuhito Endo. Turio goaled. Then in the 39th minute, the ball was from Endo again. This time, Yuji Nakazawa heads in a goal. In the later half of the game, Japan goaled just in the very end. It was Kengo Nakamura who kicked in the goal. Japan won 3 to 0.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries Group 2: vs Oman
For Japan, it's an away match on June 7. In a sizzling hot weather in Oman. The Oman side goaled in the first half. In the 2nd half, Yasuhito Endo completed a penalty kick. Japan was in danger of giving up another goal to Oman when they got a penalty kick. But Japan's goalkeepe Seigo Narazaki showed good defense. The game finished a draw.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries Group 2: vs Oman
On June 2, the match was played in Yokohama's Nissan Stadium. In the 14th minute, a corner kick was received by Yuji Nakazawa's head and he goaled. Then in the 22nd Yoshito Okubo received Turio's pass a goaled. In the later half of the game, Shunsuke Nakamura goaled. Japan beat Oman 3 to 0.

Kirin Cup: Japan vs Paraguay
Shunsuke Nakamura who plays for the Celtics was back. So were other player with the German league. In this game the Japanese side did have ample control of the ball. But neither side goaled.

Kirin Cup: Japan vs Cote d'ivoire
The game was played in Toyota Stadium on May 24. Makoto Hasebe passed the ball to Keiji Tamada who's back in the national team, and he goaled. With that Japan won 1 to 0.

East Asia Championship : vs South Korea
Japan had to win this game on Feb 23 in order to regain the East Asia title. In the 15th minute South Korea's Yeom Ki Hun completed an aereal kick to goal. Japan equalized in the later half with Koji Yamase's long shoot. But that was it. With this result, Japan finished 2nd, with the title going to South Korea.

East Asia Championship : vs China
It was another game in Chongqing on Feb 20. In the 17th minute, Koji Yamase kicked in the ball. China attacked Japanese players quite violently during the game. But Japan was able to win 1 to 0. Michiyo's Note: Head coach Takeshi Okada expressed anger after the game. It was not only towards the violent attacks by the Chinese players but also towards the North Korean referee who appeared to not to take notice.

East Asia Championship : vs North Korea
The Koreans were the first to goal. on Feb 17 in Chongqing Olympic Sports Centre Stadium in China. It was by Japan born, Jong Tae-Se who plays with Kawasaki Frontale. In the later half, Japan equalized with Ryoichi Maeda heading in a goal. But the game ended an upsetting 1 to 1 tie for Japan. Michiyo's Note: Some media in Japan say that the stadium in China clearly showed anti-Japan sentiment starting with boos when the Japanese national anthem was played.

World Cup Asian Preliminaries Group 2: vs Thailand
It's the first official game led by 51 year old Takeshi Okada who took over from Ivica Osim who has suffered a stroke. On Feb 6, in snowy Saitama, Japan national team faced Thailand. In the 21st minute Yasuhito Endo had a successful free kick. But immediately after, Thai's Teeratep Winothaimm goaled. In the later half of the game, Yoshito Okubo kicked in a goal. Yuji Nakazawa headed in one. And Seiichiro Maki who played towards the end of the game goaled. Japan won 4 to 1.

IN 2007
Club World Cup final: Boca Junior vs AC Milan
It was Kaka who made a difference. In the final on Dec 16 in Yokohama, in the 21st minute, Inzaghi responded to Kaka's pass for the first goal. But Boca equalized immediately. In the later half, Kaka was amazing with 2 goals. A.C. Milan won 4 to 2 to clinch its 4th championship title. But it was a long awaited one as its last victory was 17 years agao.

Club World Cup 3rd place: Urawa Reds vs Etoile Sahel
In a very close game, before the final on Dec 16 in Yokohama the 2 teams competed. It went into a playoff. For the Reds, Washington's contribution was enormous. It was 2 to 2 game, with the Reds winning with a 4-2 on penalties.

Club World Cup semi-final: Urawa Reds vs AC Milan
The game was held in Nissan Stadium in Yokohama on Dec 13. There was a constant attack at the Japan goal by the Italian club team. But noone goaled until the later half of the game. In the 23rd minute, Clarence Seedorf shot in a goal. A few minutes after that, the Reds Turio Tanaka was forced to leave the game due to an injury. The game ended 1 to 0.

Club World Cup quarter-finals: Urawa Reds vs Sepahan
It's the first time Asian teams are taking part in the club championships. It used to be a match between the European and South American club champions. Asian club champion, Urawa Reds had a great start on Dec 10. Yuichiro Nagai achieved a historic goal in the 31st minute. In the later half, his Brazilian teammate Washington goaled. Then, Nagai luckily has his shot put in by the opposing team. Sepahan was able to goal for itself too, but it was too late. Reds won 3 to 1.

Japan clinches Olympic berth
In the game against Saudia Arabia on Nov 21, Japan had to either win or in the worst case finish a draw to qualify to the Beijing Olympic Games. It played a competitive game before a crowd of 43,000 at Tokyo's National Stadium. The team didn't goal, but neither did it lose a goal. Finishing the game 0 to 0, Japan won a ticket to Beijing.

Kirin Challenge Cup: Japan vs Egypt
On Oct 17 in Osaka's Nagai Stadium, Japan faced Egypt. None of Japan's international players were in the line-up. Yoshito Okubo again was invited to play. He not only goaled for the first time under Osim. But he achieved 2 goals. Japan defeated Egypt 4 to 1.

Kirin Challenge Cup: Japan vs Cameroon
Japan national coach Ivica Osim, for the first time invited Yoshito Okubo to play. And also former national player Tatsuya Tanaka was invited back. It was in the 25th minute, Turio Tanaka goaled. Also 44 minutes into the later half, it was Koji Yamase. Japan won 2 to 0 in Oita.

AFC Asian Cup 3rd place: vs South Korea
On Jul 18, the mood of the game became tense after Kang Min-soo was taken out of the game for a 2nd yellow card. South Korea's head coach Pim Verbeek was also ordered to leave after barking back at the referee. So during most of the later half, South Korea played with only 10 players. Japan however could not take advantage, missing passes and with slow passes, although they came very close to a goal. In the end, it was a shootout victory for South Korea when Naotake Hanyu's kick was blocked. The 2 time defending champion lost its Asian Cup seed.

AFC Asian Cup semi-final: vs Saudia Arabia
The Saudi side goaled first on Jul 25. Japan quickly equalized with Yuji Nakazawa's goal. But soon after the start of the later half, the Saudi side goaled again. It a heading by Malek Maaz. Immediately after, Yuki Abe made a skillful goal while falling. But Malek goaled again. The game was 3 to 2 for Saudi Arabia.

AFC Asian Cup quarter-final: vs Australia
It was now about a win or a loss as the rest of the games were knock out style. On Jul 21 Japan wanted to make up for its loss against Australian in the 2006 World Cup finals. In the first half, Japan dominated the ball. But the Aussies goaled first.That's in the later half. It was by striker John Aloisi. Then a few minutes later Naohiro Takahara goaled to equalized. Extra time was played, but it didn't move the game. And so there was a shootout. Japanese goalkeeper and captain Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi saved 2 kicks. And with Yuji Nakazawa kicked the ball into the goal successfully, Japan won to advance further.

AFC Asian Cup Group B: vs Vietnam
In the final match in Group B, Japan on Jul 16 played Vietnam which ranks 142. Vietnam had been playing well until this game. But a bad start for Japan. In the 8th minute, a corner kick by Vietnam hit Keita Suzuki and the ball went inside the goal. In the 12th minute, Seiichiro Maki forced the ball into the goal. then in the 32nd minute it was a goal by Yasuhito Endo's penalty kick. In the later half of the game, Japan had 2 more goals including one by Shunsuke Nakamura.Japan won 4 to 1. It advanced to the quarter finals.

AFC Asian Cup Group B: vs U.A.E.
In the 22nd minute, Naohiro Takahara reacted perfectly to Shunsuke Nakamura's pass to head in a goal. Then just 5 minutes later, Takahara goaled again. In the 42nd minute, Japan won a free kick. Nakamura succeeded in doing the job. Japan won 3 to 1 on Jul 14.

AFC Asian Cup Group B: vs Qatar
In Hanoi, Japan played against Qatar on Jul 9. It was in the later half, Naohiro Takahara of Frankfurt skillfully kicked in the ball into the opponent's goal. And it looked like Japan was going to win, until 4 minutes before the game was to end. Qatar earned a free kick and Sebastian Quitana kicked the ball right between a little opening in the players lined up in front of the goat to equalize. After the game, Japan national coach Ivica Osim expressed out loud his disappointment.

Kirin Cup: Japan vs Colombia
In the starting line-up on June 5 were Japan's European League players. They include Shunsuke Nakamura, Naohiro Takahara, Junichi Inamoto and Koji Nakata. They played a competitive game against FIFA 26th ranking Colombia. Japan is currently 44th place. And it ended 0 to 0. With this draw, Japan won the Kirin Cup.

Kirin Cup: Japan vs Montenegro
More international players assembled for the national team on June 1. They include Junichi Inamoto who just joined Frankfurts where Naohiro Takahara playes. Koji Nakata was there. Shunsuke Nakamura flew in, but had to stay out this game due to an injury. In the first 23 minutes, Yuji Nakazawa headed in a goal. In the 38th minute, Takahara goaled. Japan won 2 to 0.

Friendly Match: Japan vs Peru
For the first time, Japan's national team coach Ivica Osim invited European club players to join his team. They are Naohiro Takahara with Frankfurts and Shunsuke Nakamura with Celtic. And they contributed in the math on Mar 24 in Yokohama's Nissan Stadium. Nakamura's pass was received by Seiichiro Maki who goaled in the first 19 minute. And in the later half Takahara goaled, for Japan's 2 to 0 win.

IN 2006
FIFA Club World Cup
Brazil's Internacional faced Barcelona in the final on Dec 17 in Yokohama. In the first half Internacional's Alexandre Pato. With that Internacional defeated Barcelona. It was an upset, as fans were looking forward to Ronaldinho's goal.

Asian Cup Qualifier: Japan vs Saudi Arabia
On Nov 15, the game was held at the Sapporo Dome. In the 20th minute, Marcus Tulio Tanaka Kazuki Ganaha goaled twice. Japan won 3 to 1.

Friendly Match: Japan vs Ghana
The match was played at the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama on Oct 4. Ghana's national team was made up mainly of those who played in this year's World Cup. Among the Japanese players, only a few, including goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi. None of the players overseas were called back. Japan was not too bad, with many attempts to goal. But it was Ghanaian midfielder Draman Haminu who kicked in the ball into the goal in the later half for his team's 1 to 0 win.

Asian Cup Qualifier: Japan vs Saudi Arabia
The game was held in Saudi Arabia on Sept 3. In the later half of the game, Saleh Bashir goaled to give Saudia Arabia a 1 to 0 win. It's the first defeat for the Japan national team led by Ivica Osim.

Asian Cup Qualifier: Japan vs Yemen
The game was held in Niigata's Big Swan on Aug 16. New coach Ivica Osim chose many new players on the national team squad. In the later half, Alexandro Santos took advantage of a corner kick. Yuki Abe times himself right, to hit the ball with his head to let it goal. For the first time, twins brothers played on the pitch together in this game. One of them, Hisato Sato, goaled during injury time. Japan won 2 to 0.

Friendly Match: Japan vs Trinidad Tobago
It's the first game led by Ivica Osim on Aug 9. He didn't call back any of the international players. Some of the players from Zico Japan were Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, Tatsuya Tanaka, and Alexandro Santos. In the first 17 minute of the game, Japan earned a penalty kick and Santos goaled. In the 22nd minute Santos kicked the ball up and into the goal. Japan won 2 to 0.

Osim is official
65 year old Ivica Osim formally signed a contract with the Japan Football Association on Jul 21, and held a news conference. The former Yugoslave head coach said it's a marriage with Japan. He needs support to make the marriage a successful one. He does not intend to change the national team drastically. The first game in which he will lead the team is on Aug 9 against Trinidad and Tobago.

Japan's FIFA ranking plunges
FIFA announced the world ranking for the first time after the World Cup finals. On Jul 11 it said Japan has dropped to 49th place. It was previously ranked 18.

Farewell to Zico
Zico was back in Tokyo and on June 26, gave his last press conference as the head coach of Team Japan. He said that although the Japanese players have more confidence in games against world class national teams, their smaller sizes make them difficult to beat them. Zico said he will return to Rio de Janeiro and seek a job with a European club team. His likely replacement as Japan national team head coach is Ivica Osim who led the former Yugoslav team to the World Cup final's top 8.

FIFA World Cup Finals Group F: vs Brazil
The match on June 22 was at 4 am in Japan on June 23. But many stayed awake to watch the match. Japan was the first to goal. It was by Keiji Tamada in the 35th minute. But during injury time, Ronaldo headed in. In the later half of the game, the Brazilians were awesome. Players like Ronaldinho showed his super skills, and there were more goals. Among them, by Ronaldo again. Brazil won 4 to 1, and with this outcome Japan is out of the World Cup.

FIFA World Cup Finals Group F: vs Croatia
Japan was in danger in the 21st minute, when Croatia earned a penalty kick just in front of the goal. But Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi blocked the ball well. He defended his goal well thereafter. Both sides had plenty of chances to goal. But failed to do so, and the game ended a draw in the game on June 18. This game attracted a rating of 52.7 percent in the Tokyo area.

FIFA World Cup Finals Group F: vs Australia
Japan had a great start on June 12. Shunsuke Nakamura kicked the ball into the goal in the 26th minute. Thereafter, Japan defended well including goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi. But it was in the last 10 minutes of the game, the Australians not only equalized. They kicked in 2 more goals. The game finished 3 to 1 for Australia.

Friendly Match: Japan vs Malta
It's the last practice game for Japan before the World Cup. In the game on June 4, Japan's aim was not only to win, but to make a number of goals as Malta is lower than 100th ranking. Immediately after kick off, Keiji Tamada goaled. It was a great start for Japan. But thereafter, the team struggled. It had opportunities to goal through penalty kicks but failed. The match finished 1 to 0. Zico said after the game it was poor quality even though his team won.

Friendly Match: Japan vs Germany
On May 30, the national team played it's warm-up in Germany ahead of the World Cup. It's against the host country. In the 35th minute, Japan was in shock when Akira Kaji, who was attacked in his effort to get control of the ball was taken away on a stretcher. But in the later half, a great pass from Shunsuke Nakamura to Atsushi Yanagisawa which lead to Naohiro Takahara's goal. 8 minutes after, Takahara meticulously dribbled the ball for another goal. But the Germans equalized, and the game finished 2-2. Japan was elated to play so well against one of the top World Cup contenders. Japanese media gave a high mark to defender Takashi Fukunishi.

Zico announces 2006 World Cup squad
On May 15, Zico announed his 23 men. Among them, Hidetoshi Nakata and Shinji Ono who will go to the World Cup for the 3rd time. Junichi Inamoto was chosen for the 2nd time. Shunsuke Nakamura was selected for the first time and so was Masashi Ogura. The surprise was, Tatsuhiko Kubo was dropped, while Seiichiro Maki made the squad.

Kirin Challenge: Japan vs Scotland
The game was played in the rain on May 13 at Saitama Stadium. Zico did not have any international players on his team. The Japanese side attempted to shoot into the goal a number of times but failed. The game finished 0 to 0. This was the last match for the national team before Zico announces his World Cup squad on May 15.

Kirin Challenge: Japan vs Bulgaria
As soon as the game kicked off on May 9 in Osaka, Bulgaria goaled. It was in the later half of the game, Japan equalized with a goal by Seiichiro Maki. Japan tried to win another goal, but during injury time, Bulgaria got the ball past Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, into the goal. None of the European League players were on the Japanese team, as Zico seemed to be trying out domestic players ahead of the World Cup. Japan lost 2 to 1.

Kirin Challenge: Japan vs Equador
Japan played against this year's World Cup finals participant in Oita on Mar 30. Japan had control of the ball the majority of the time, but it was not easy to goal. Then in the later half of the match, Hisato Sato of Sanfrecce goaled. That was the only goal of the match so Japan won 1 to 0.

Friendly match: Japan vs Bosnia Herzegovina
Japan's international players joined the team to play in Germany, the national team of Bosnia Herzegovina on Feb 28. Naohiro Takahara heads the game's first goal. But the opponents goaled twice in the 2nd half of the game. Then during injury time, Hide Nakata used his head to equalize. It was a 2-2 game.

Kirin Challenge: Japan vs India
It was a goal rush for Japan on Feb 22 in the game held at the Nissan Stadium. In began in the 32nd minute with a sliding goal by Shinji Ono. Takashi Fukunishi, Hisato Sato each had a goal. Tatsuhiko Kubo kicked in 2 goals. Japan defeated India 6 to 0.

Kirin Challenge: Japan vs Finland
The match was held in Shizuoka's Ecopa on Feb 18. In the later half, Mitsuo Ogasawara assisted Tatsuhiko Kubo to kick in a goal. A couple of minutes after that Ogasawara himself goaled a super long shoot. Japan defeated Finland 2 to 0.

Kirin Challenge: Japan vs U.S.
The national team played its first game of the year in San Francisco on Feb 10 to start the World Cup year. It looked as if the teamwork was good in the beginning. But it didn't continue without its international players. Tatsuhiko Kubo was the only striker, playing with the team for the first time since Sept 2004. The U.S. Eddie Pope goaled in the 24th minute. Then the team goaled 2 more. It was in the later half, Seiichiro Maki headed in Japan's first goal. During extra time, Yuji Nakazawa kicked in a goal. The rusty Japanese team lost 2 to 3.

IN 2005
1st Club World Championship
Replacing the Toyota Cup held until the previous year which was held between club champions of South America and Europe, is this new format. It's a championship between winners of the 6 continents. It kicked off on Dec 11. For fans in Japan, it's proud of its longtime superstar Kazu Miura playing in the championship with Sydney FC. However, his team lost to Saprissa 0 to 1. But in a match to decide 5th place, Kazu contributed, and won 2 to 1 over Al Ahly. The title was fought between Sao Paulo and Liverpool. Sao Paulo clinched the club championship title in a 1 to 0 game. It's for the 3rd time.

Friendly match: Japan vs Angola
Over 50,000 spectators turned up at Tokyo's National Stadium on Nov 16 to watch the Kirin Cup Challenge. The Japanese team included players from European league, Hide Nakata, Junichi Inamoto and Shunsuke Nakamura. The Japanese side attacked Angola's goal a number of times, but could not score. 44 minutes into the later half of the game, Daisuke Matsui headed in a goal, his first as a national team member. Japan won 1 to 0.

Kirin Cup : Japan vs Ukraine
Koji Nakata was taken out of the game with a red card. The Japanese team had to play with one player lacking in the later half. Neither side could goal, until Yoshinobu Minowa who played for the first time on the national team gave the rival a chance for a free kick. Ukraine goaled in the 44th minute. The game ended 0 to 1 on Oct 12.

Kirin Cup : Japan vs Honduras
The Japanese team had a bad start in the game on Sept 7 in Sendai. By the 26th minute Honduras goaled twice. Naohiro Takahara goaled 5 minutes later, but Honduras goaled again. In the later half, Atsushi Yanagisawa headed, a penalty kick from Shunsuke Nakamura. Honduras's Velasquz completed a hot trick. Shunsuke goaled a penalty kick. Atsushi Yanagisawa goaled again. And the final goal in the match was by Mitsuo Ogasawara. Japan won 5 to 4.

2006 World Cup: Asian Qualifier vs Iran
It was a home game for Japan at the Yokohama International Stadium on Aug 17. In the 28th minute, Ryo Kaji goaled. Then in the later half, a corner kick made in into the goal. The Iran side mishandled it at the goal. The goal was creditted to Masashi Oguro. 2 minutes after that, Iran goaled from a penalty kick. In the end Japan won 2 to 1 and clinched first place in Group B.

East Asian Championship
* vs China
Zico drastically changed the starting line up on Aug 3. But the team gave away goals to China, in the 37th minute, and in the 43rd. In the later half, Japan caught up but the game ended a 2 to 2 tie.
* vs North Korea
The Japanese team played on July 31 in South Korea. In the 27th minute, North Korea's Kim Young Jun, shot in a goal. The Japanese team aimed for the goal from time to time but the ball never made it in. Japan lost a shocking 0 to 1.

Confederations Cup: vs Brazil
It was a competitive game played on June 22. In the 10th minute, Robinho goaled. In the 27th, Shunsuke Nakamura shot in a goal from a distance and equalized. Then Ronaldinho, 5 minutes after goaled. During injury time, Nakamura went for a penalty kick. Masashi Oguro kicked it in, to equalize again. The game ended 2 to 2. Unfortunately, Japan was unable to proceed to the semi-finals since it hasn't achieved enough goals.

Confederations Cup: vs Greece
In the game played on June 19, it was in the later half that the action took place. Masashi Oguro joined the game in the later half. And 10 minutes after, he shot in a goal. Japan beat European champion Greece 1 to 0.

Confederations Cup: vs Mexico
In Hanover,Germany on June 16 Japan's national team took off to a good start. In the 12th minute Atsushi Yanagisawa shot in a goal. But in the 39th minute, Mexico equalized. And 19 minutes into the later half, Fonseca headed in a goal. The game ended 1 to 2 for Mexico.

2006 World Cup: Asian Qualifier vs N. Korea
Japan shot in 2 goals to secure a berth to the World Cup in Germany. It was in the later half. Atsushi Yanagisawa slided towards the ball to goal. Just one minute before loss time, Masashi Oguro went pass the North Korean goalkeeper to shoot. The match was played in Bangkok--on neutral ground and without spectators on June 8 Originally the game was supposed to be played in Pyongyang. But FIFA changed the venue as a penalty towards N Korea's handling of its spectators and the team's attitude towards refrees during a match against Iran in Pyongyang.

2006 World Cup: Asian Qualifier vs Bahrain
The game on June 3 was held in Bahrain. Seats were free of charge. It was in the 34th minute. Hide Nakata passed the ball to Shunsuke Nakamura, then it went to Mitsuo Ogasawara who shot it into the goal. Thereafter the Japanese players tried hard to defend their goal. Just before the game was over, a shoot by the Bahrain team hit the Japan post. But the game finished 1 to 0 for Japan. It's come close to winning a berth to the World Cup. But the next game, some of its star players, Hide Nakata, Shunsuke Nakamura and Alessandro Santos will not be allowed to play due to accummulated yellow cards.

Kirin Cup : Japan vs United Arab Emirates
The Japanese team struggled again on May 27. It could not score in the first half. 24 minutes into the later half, Japan gave up a goal to Alo Ali. The game ended 1 to 0. It's the first in 2 years Japan's national team lost 2 games in a row.

Kirin Cup : Japan vs Peru
It's the first of a 3-way match, which includes the United Arab Emirates. This game was played in Niigata Stadium on May 22. Japan struggled against Peru. It's players aimed for the goal only 4 times. It was during loss time that Peru goaled, and ended the game.

2006 World Cup: Asian Qualifier vs Bahrain
The match was held at Saitama Stadium on Mar 30. Shinji Ono of Feyenoord could not play this game as he succumbed to 2 yellow cards the previous match. Some of the star players in this time but were not in Iran were Alex Santos and Takayuki Suzuki. Neither side was able to goal in the first half. 27 minutes into the later half, Shunsuke Nakamura went for a penalty kick. The ball was rallied in front of the goal, and it went in, from Bahrain's player. It was an own goal. The game finished 1 to 0 for Japan. With this win, Japan has regained hope in the qualifying campaign.

2006 World Cup: Asian Qualifier vs Iran
Held in the Iranian capital of Tehran on March 25, Azadi Stadium with the capacity of 100,000 was filled. Only about 1000 were Japanese fans. The Iranian side attacked Reggina's Shunsuke Nakamura that at one point, he had to be carried out of the field for treatment. It was right after that, Iran goaled. This was in the 25th minute. In the later half, Takashi Fukunishi helped Japan equalize, assisted by Atsushi Yanagisawa. But then, Iran goaled again. This was despite Japan's all star members which included Hidetoshi Nakata and Shinji Ono. Japan lost 1 to 2. And in the grouping fell to 3rd place in Group B.

2006 World Cup: Asian Qualifier vs N.Korea
The final qualifying round for Japan kicked off at Saitama Stadium on Feb 9. It took on the North Korean team. It's a game closely watched as the 2 countries are in political rift. Security was super tight with 3400 on guard. Japan was the first on Mitsuo Ogasawara's free kick just 4 minutes into the game. In the later half, North Korea attacked the Japanese goal, and in the 15th minute, North Korea, on Nam Song Chol's shoot equalized. Seeing that Japan was in danger, Zico finally had players replaced with European league players Naohiro Takahara and Shunsuke Nakamura. During loss time, Japan attacked North Korea goal. Taking the ball which bounced back from the goalkeeper, Masashi Oguro achieved a game winning goal. Japan won 2 to 1.

IN 2004
Friendly Match: Japan vs Germany
Over 61,000 fans watched closely the match at International Stadium Yokohama on Dec 16. Neither side goaled in the first half. 9 minutes into the 2nd half, Michael Ballack passed the ball to Miroslav Klose who goaled. In the 24th minute, it was Ballack to shoot and goal. Then during loss time, Klose goaled again. Germany won 3 to 0.

Toyota Cup: FC Porto vs. Once Caldas
On Dec 12 at at International Stadium Yokohama the European and South American club champions faced eachother. It was so competitive, the match was not only extended. It went into a shoot out. FC Porto clinched the 12th and final Toyota Cup in a 8 to 7 shoot out.

2006 World Cup: Asian Qualifier-- vs Singapore
Japan already clinched the berth to the Asian finals Still the turnout on Nov 17 was more than 58,000 at Saitama Stadium 2002. There were no players called to play from the European leagues. In the 13th minute Kei Tamada of Kashiwa Reysol kicked in a goal. But that was the only goal of the game. Japan won 1 to 0.

2006 World Cup: Asian Qualifier-- vs Oman
The Japanese team reached Muscat one day late because it could not fly out of Tokyo due to a strong typhoon. It was muggy in Muscat, but the Japanese team played well on Oct 13. 7th minutes into the later half, Takayuki Suzuki headed in a pass from Shunsuke Nakamura, for Japan's first goal. There was a dangerous moment for Japan, when goal keeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi was unable to stop the ball in the field, and the Oman side tried to attack the empty goal. But a defender managed to block the ball with his body. At one point, Japan's head coach Zico and his interpreter were shouting near the field. The Chinese refree ordered the interpreter out. Zico had to try to give his players orders without his interpreter. Nevertheless, Japan managed to defend its one goal, and with the win, secured a berth to the next round, to the Asian Finals.

2006 World Cup: Asian Qualifier-- vs India
The humidy rate in Calcutta, India was over 90 percent on Sept 8. In that situation, Japan played rather well. The first goal was in the 44th minute by Takayuki Suzuki. While the game went into a break a black out. It took more than 30 minutes for the match to go into the later half. In the 13th minute, Shinji Ono, with a one bound penalty kick got the ball into the goal. In the 26th minute Takashi Fukunishi headed in a goal. In the 41th minute a decisive goal by Tsuneyasu Miyamoto. Japan won 4 to 0.

Asian Cup in Chongqing
* final vs.China on August 7 in Beijing
It was a heavily guarded game with 12,000 police. The Japanese fans were allowed in through one entrance in order to avoid any clash with Chinese fans taking on China's hostility towards Japan in all its games in China. But the Japanese players were not affected, rather they were concentrating better and better. In the first 21st minute, Shunsuke Nakamura's free kick was received by Takayuki Suzuki. His pass lead to a header by Takashi Fukunishi who goaled. But 10 minutes later, China's Li Ming goaled to equalize. In the latter half, Yuji Nakazawa kicked in a gaol. Then during injury time, Kenji Tamada dribbled the ball and goaled. Japan defended the Asian Cup title for the 2nd consecutive time. Shunsuke Nakamura was named MVP.

* semi final vs.Bahrain on August 2 in Jinan
It was Bahrain which goaled first. In the later half, the game moved fast. It started with Koji Nakata's header. And in the 9the minute, Mitsuo Ogasawara shot the ball into the goal. Bahrain equalized in the 26th minute, and went ahead of the another goal. Japan was rescued by Yuji Nakazawa's goal just before injury time to equalize. The game went into extra time. In the 2nd minute, Kenji Tamada goaled. And the competitive game ended 4 to 3 for Japan amid the booing Chinese crowd.

* quarterfinal vs.Jordan on July 31 in Chongqing
Jordan goaled first in the 11th minute. In the 14th minute, Japan equalized with Takayuki Suzuki's shoot. Thereafter, both teams had chances but could not goal. In the penalty shoot out, the first 2 challengers from the Japan side Shunsuke Nakamura and Alex Santos both missed the goal, while the first 2 Jordanian's succeeded. But then, Japan's goal keeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi defended the goal well thereafter. And Japan's 7th kicker, Tsuneyasu Miyamoto succeeded the goal to give Japan a victory.

* Group D vs.Iran on July 28 in Chongqing
During the later half of the game, Iran had control of the ball. It attacked the Japanese goal. But Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi defended it well. The game finished a 0 to 0. Japan finished Group D, first and advanced to the final round.

* Group D vs.Thailand on July 24 in Chongqing
Japan had a shocking start. It lost a goal to Thailand in the 12th minute. But a few minutes after that, Shunsuke Nakamura successfully completed a free kick. In the later half, Japan had 2 more goals and managed to defeat Thailand 4 to 1.

* Group D vs.Oman on July 20 in Chongqing
Playing in front of Chinese fans, mostly cheering for Oman in Chongqing, Japan managed to win. In the 33rd minute Shusuke Nakamura shot in a goal. Goal keeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi managed to keep Oman from scoring. The match ended 1 to 0.

Kirin Cup: Japan vs Serbia Montenegro
It's a close match held International Stadium Yokohama on July 13. Immediately in the later half, Yasuhito Endo smoothly dribbled the ball past the goalkeeper into the goal. Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi kept the opposing team from getting the ball into the goal. Japan won 1 to 0.

Kirin Cup: Japan vs Slovakia
The match was held without Shinji Ono nor Hide Nakata at Hiroshima Big Arch on July 9. But Japan did well. Shunsuke Nakamura's corner kick was played effectively by Takashi Fukunishi who kicked in the team's first to goal. Peter Babnic equalized. But Japan added more goals--by Takayuki Suzuki, and by Atsushi Yanagisama. Japan won 3 to 1.

2006 World Cup: Asian Qualifier-- vs India
Japan welcomed India at the Saitama Stadium 2002 on June 9 before a crowd of over 60,000. Regular goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki, Hidetoshi Nakata and Junichi Inamoto were out due to injuries. After many close chances, in the 12th minute Tatsuhiko Kubo goaled. The Japan side had goals after another. In the first half, 3 goals. In all, Japan had 7, and blanked India.

Friendly Match: Japan vs England
Japan played another game in Manchester on June 1. This time, against England with its best players. Japan's Shinji Ono defended the goal from David Beckham's superb corner kick in the first half. But in the 22nd minute, Michael Owen completed a goal. Japan, however,showed a smooth pass, from Shunsuke Nakamura to Alessandro Santos.Shinji Ono goaled. Japan tied with England, which is considered a feat. But the bad news is, during the game, Junichi Inamoto clashed with a England player and broke his left leg.

Friendly Match: Japan vs Iceland
Japan faced Iceland in Manchester on May 30. Japan lost a goal first. But Tatsuhiko Kubo goaled twice. And also Alessandro Santos goaled. Japan in the end won 3 to 2. Special credit is given to Shinji Ono for delivering skillful passes.

Friendly Match: Japan vs Czech
European league players Shinji Ono and Junichi Inamoto joined the national team to compete in the Czech Republic on Apr 28. In the first 32 minutes, Tatsuhiko Kubo goaled. Japan's goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki guarded the Japan goal well despite attacks by the Czech team. Japan in the end won 1 to 0 against the world's number 9 ranking team.

Friendly Match: Japan vs Hungary
On Apr 25, the Japanese team without any of the European league players faced Hungary. It lost 2 goals to Hungary, but in the later half caught up with two, including one by Tatsuhiko Kubo who was called back on the national team. Kubo was punished for his rowdy behavior at a night club and was not allowed to play in the Asian qualifier against Singapore. But during loss time, Japan gave up a penalty kick and lost a goal. Japan lost 2 to 3.

2006 World Cup: Asian Qualifier-- vs Singapore
It was only a day before the match on Mar 31 that the whole Japanese team got together in Singapore. The match was held at Jalan Besar Stadium with a capacity for only 6000 people. It was fully packed and the fans were mostly Japanese. It was after much attempts toward the goal, at last in the 33rd minute, Naohiro Takahara was able to shoot the ball in. But surprisingly, 17 minutes into the later half, Singapore's Indra Sahdan Daud equalised. Noone expected Singapore to goal. The Japan side seemed pressured to goal, but it was only in the later 37th minute that Toshiya Fujita kicked in a goal to give his team a 2 to I win.

Japan wins Olympic berth
With only one more game left, Japan was on par with Bahrain for one berth in the Olympic Games in Athens. So it was pertinent that Japan, at least won. On March 18 at Tokyo's National Stadium, it played against United Arab Emirates for a decisive match. Daisuke Nasu completed a free kick in the 12th minute. Then Yoshio Okubo shoved the ball in after a free kick. Then in the later half, it was Okubo again. Japan beat UAE 3 to 0. And since Lebanon lost to Bahrain on the same day, we hope the next tour will take us more to the cratsmenship practiced tody.

2006 World Cup: Asian Qualifier-- vs Oman
Japanese players were back from the European leagues for the first match of the Asian qualifier round 1. Japan's grouped with Oman, India and Singapore. The match was played at Saitama Stadium before an audience of over 60,000 on Feb 18. Japan continuously attacked Oman's goal. In the 29th minute, Japan had a big chance for the goal as it won a penalty. But Oman's goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi stopped the ball. The spectators, mostly cheering on Japan were dismayed. The game went on with more shots attempted towards the goal, but Oman defended well. Then during injury time, Tatsuhiko Kubo goaled. This was in the 92th minute. Japan managed to win 1 to 0 and won 3 points.

Friendly Match: Japan vs Iraq
Japan shouldered the costs for the Iraqi team to play in Tokyo on Feb 12 for its final practice before kick starting the Asian qualifier for the 2006 World Cup. Iraq had a very strong chance to goal in the 16th minute due to Japan's sloppy defense. But Japan's goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki saved the ball. Immediately into the later half of the game, Atsushi Yanagisawa headed in a pass from Alessandro Santos. 25 minutes later, Reggina's Shunsuke Nakamura joined the game amid big applause from the crowd. Then a critical moment for Japan, with Iraq taking the ball, but Narazaki again stoping it. And in the 84th minute of the game, Santos kicked in a goal. Japan won 2 to 0.

IN 2003
Toyota Cup: AC Milan vs Boca Juniors
At International Stadium Yokohama on Dec. 14, AC Milan's Danish striker, Jon Dahl Tomasson kicked in the first goal of the game. It was in the 28th minute. But Boca Juniors quickly equalized. The game went into sudden death. And since noone scored, a penalty shootout was held. Boca with a 3 to 1 clinched the world club championship title for the 2nd time.

East Asia Championship 2003 Final Games
* vs.China on Dec 4
Japan did not assemble any of its players from the European leagues. Players who'd otherwise not be given an opportunity to play on the national team contributed. In the 4th minute, Tatsuhiko Kubo goaled. He did it again in the later half, 35 minutes. Japan won 2 to 0.
* vs.Hong Kong on Dec 7
Japan only scored in the 37th minute on Brazilian born turned Japanese, Alessandro Santos's penalty kick. It was a 1 to 0 game.
* vs.S Korea on Dec 10
International Stadium Yokohama drew over 62,000 people to witness the long time rivals compete against eachother. The critical point, in the 18th minute. Japanese stricker Yoshito Okubo succumbed to a 2nd yellow car, thus expelled from the game. Japan has to compete with 10 members. But South Korea failed to take advantage of it. The game ended a 0 to 0.

Japan vs Cameroon
The game took place at Oita Stadium on Nov 19. For the Cameroon team, it's near their memorable camping site prior to the World Cup 2002. Parma's Hidetoshi Nakata controlled the ball well, but the forwards missed the goal. And the game ended 0-0.

Japan vs Romania
Japan continue its tour to Bucharest. It faced Romania on Oct 11. In the 16th minute Chelsea's Adrian Mutu goaled despite Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi's attempt to stop the ball. Then 13 minutes into the later half Atsushi Yanagisawa kicked in the ball,receiving a perfect soft pass from Hidetoshi Nakata of Parma. That match ended a 1 to 1 draw.

Japan vs Tunisia
On Oct 9, Japan faced Tunisia in Tunis. In the beginning, the Tunisian side was in control. But in the 39th minute, Atsushi Yanagisawa of Sampdoria goaled. There was a very close chance in the later half for Japan to add another goal, but the game ended 1 to 0 for Japan. It's the 4th win for Japan's national team lead by Zico.

Kirin Cup: Japan vs Senegal
The game was held at Niigata Stadium on Sept 10. Just 6 minutes into the game, Senegal's midfielder Pape Bouba Diop headed in a goal. Japan had many chance into the Senegalese goal, but did not make it. The game ended 1 to 0.

Kirin Cup: Japan vs Nigeria
A sell out crowd packed Tokyo's national stadium on Aug 20 to see the quasi-Japan all star team. Japan kicked off to a startling start. Just a minute into the game, Hamburg SV's Naohiro Takahara kicked in a goal. And he headed in a goal in the 39th minute after receiving a pass from Reggina's Shusuke Nakamura. Then in the 72nd minute, Yasuhito Endo of Gamba Osaka goaled. Japan defeated Nigeria 3 to 0. It's the first home victory for Zico Japan.

FC Tokyo vs Real Madrid
It was pouring rain the evening of Aug 5. But Tokyo's National Stadium drew 54,000 people. David Beckham goaled a free kick. Ronaldo beautifully goaled the 3rd point for his team. Not surprising, Real Madrid overwhelmed FC Tokyo 3 to 0.

Confederations Cup: Japan vs Colombia
In the final match in the group round on June 22, Japan was fighting without Junichi Inamoto and neither Shunsuke Nakamura. There was a close call. Naohiro Takahara's ball hit the opponent's pole. In the later 23rd minute, the Colombia side goaled. Securing only 3 points in the group matches, Japan was gone from the Confederations Cup.

Confederations Cup: Japan vs France
Japan faced one of the world's leading soccer teams on June 20. The worst moment in this match for Japan was when Junichi Inamoto of the Fulham was punished for a play in the 43rd minute. And France won a PK and goaled. In the later half, Japan caught up with Shunsuke Nakamura's goal. But France took the lead again. Japan lost 1 to 2.

Confederations Cup: Japan vs New Zealand
On June 18, Japan played its first match in the Confederations Cup. In the 12th minute, Shunsuke Nakamura of Reggina kicked the ball diagnolly from the goal, and go it in. In the later half, Parma's Hidetoshi Nakata shot the ball in. 10 minutes later, it was Nakamura again. This time he headed in a goal. Japan won 3 to 0. It's the first time the team led by Zico won in an official international match.

Kirin Cup: Japan vs Paraguay
Saitama Stadium was packed on June 11. This time Brazilian star and Japan national team skipper Zico had 9 different players on from the previous match. They include Shunsuke Nakamura, and Naohiro Takahara. In the later half, 21 year old Yoshito Okubo received the ball from Alessandro Santos and headed in the ball. Or so it seemed. But it was declared offside. The game ended a 0 to 0 draw.

Kirin Cup: Japan vs Argentina
The match was held in Osaka's Nagai Stadium on June 8 before a sell out crowd. Japan was represented this time by its players with European clubs such as Hidetoshi Nakata, Junichi Inamoto and Takayuki Suzuki. But Argentina's Javier Saviola goaled the first for his team. Then it was Javier Zanetti. In the later half, Yutaka Akita headed in a goal for Japan, but Argentina succeeded in 2 more goals beating the host 4 to 1. Japan has not won a match under its skipper Zico at home yet.

World Cup anniversary: Japan vs South Korea
May 31 commemorated just one year since the World Cup opened in South Korea in 2002. The co-hosts held a match in its memory in Tokyo's National Stadium. The the first half of the match, the Japanese side had more control of the ball. But in the 2nd half it was different. And in the 41st minute, South Korean stricker Ahn Jung Hwan goaled. He seemed to have revived the miracle he helped achieve for his team to make it to the top 4 in the World Cup finals in 2002.

Friendly match: Japan vs South Korea
The co-hosts of the 2002 World Cup finals faced eachother for the first time since the event. On Apr 16, the match was played in Soeul. The Japanese team flew from Narita Airport with precaution against the Severe Acute Respiratory Symptom spreading in Asia. Some wore masks. Japan and South Korea by the way are some of the few east Asian countries with no SARS patients at this point. Now the match was exciting, with both teams attacking the goal, but just inches off. The game went on goal less. Then near the end, Japan's captain Masashi "Gon" Nakayama was out, and in came a first time national team member Yuichiro Nagai. Korea's defender appeared to have tried to clear Nagai's hold of the ball, but that act ironically led to Nagai's goal in the 89th minute. Japan, led by Brazilian star Zico, won an international match for the first time.

Friendly match: Japan vs Uruguay
Japan's national team was formed with 7 of its players with foreign leagues. It played against Uruguay before a crowd of 54,000 at Tokyo's National Stadium on Mar 28. Uruguay goaled first. Japan quickly caught up with Reggina's Shunsuke Nakamura's successful PK. However, after that Japan gave up a goal due to mishandling of the ball by its goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi. In the later half, Fulham's Junichi Inamoto shot in a goal to equalize. It ended 2 to 2.

IN 2002
Toyota Cup: Real Madrid vs Olimpia
The Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos were back at the Yokohama International Stadium on Dec 3 for the first time since clinching the World Cup crown this year at the same site. This time, they were playing for Spain's Real Madrid facing South American club team champions Olimpia of Paraguay. Also on the team, Zidane and Luis Figo. In the 14th minute of the game, Ronaldo goaled. In the later 38th minute it was Guti. Real Madrid defeated Olimpia 2 to 0.

Friendly match: Japan vs Argentina
Japan was without its head coach Zico on Nov 20 at the Saitama Stadium. That's because just a few days ago, his mother died. And he decided to go back to Rio de Janeiro to attend the mass ceremony. Not all of Japan's top international players joined the team either. Some of those back in Japan for the match were Shunsuke Nakamura of Reggina, Takayuki Suzuki with Genk. It was competitive in the 1st half with neither side achieving a goal. But at the start of the 2nd half, Argentina's Sonin kicked in a goal. Then immediately after, Crespo headed in a goal. As if to change the mood of the match, Masashi Nakayama took over Takayuki Suzuki in the 55th minute. Shunsuke Nakamura after failed to kick in a penalty kick was replaced by Alessandro Santos. But the game ended 2 to 0 for Argentina.

Friendly match: Japan vs Jamaica
For the first time since the FIFA World Cup finals in Japan, the national team was formed. It was led by former Brazilian star Zico for the first time. Naohiro Takahara and Shunsuke Nakamura who was dropped from the World Cup team was on. On Oct 16, Japan played Jamaica at Tokyo's National Stadium. In the 7th minute, Shinji Ono of Feyenoord kicked in a goal. But after that, Japan had close tries at the goal, not quite making it. In the 80th minute, Jamaica equalized. And the match ended a draw.

Young Japan team wins Asian Games medal
Japan for the first time advanced to the Asian Games soccer final, and played against Iran on Oct 13. Neither side goaled in the first half. Two minutes into the later half, after a miskick by the Japanese side, Iran goaled. Then in the 42nd minute, Japan errored again and Iran's completed its 2nd goal. A few minutes after, Japan's Satoshi Nakayama finally kicked in a goal. But Japan lost 1 to 2. Japan finished 2nd place in the Asian Games held in Busan, South Korea. It's Iran's 4th Asian Games title.

Zico formally chosen Japan coach
On July 20, Zico was back in Japan. And it was announced by Japan Football Association's new president Saburo Kawabuchi that Zico will be leading the new national team. On July 22 at a Tokyo Hotel Zico officially signed a contracting starting from August 1 to the end of December. He's to renew an 11 month contact every year after that.

Japan's world ranking jumps to 24
FIFA announced on July 3 a fresh new ranking, the first after the 2002 World Cup finals Korea/Japan. Japan surged 8 points to 24th. While South Korea which finished 4th in the World Cup to 22nd. Number one is Brazil.

Friendly match: Japan vs Sweden
It's the first and the last warm up match for Japan's World Cup team before the World Cup finals. Tokyo's national stadium attracted a full house of 54,000 on May 25. In the first half of the game, Sweden goaled. During half time, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko seated themselves in the stands. It's only the 2nd time the imperial heads watched a pro soccer game. In the latter half, Brazilian turned Japanese Alessandro Santos passed the ball hear the goal which Sweden mistakenly put into the goal. The game ended 1 to 1. After the game the imperial couple spoke to the Japanese players to give their support before the world's largest sporting event kicks off in less than a week. By the way, the Tokyo Tower was illuminated in blue--to cheer on the Japanese team. It's usually in red and white.

Friendly match: Japan vs Norway
Hidetoshi Nakata and Shinji Ono joined the team for the game on May 14. But the national team was not looking good. In the first half, Norway was attacking the Japanese side more often, and it appeared almost a miracle that Norway did not goal. But in the later half, Norway kicked in 3 goals. They're by Henning Berg, Sigurd Rushfeldt and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Japan lost to a team that's not even taking part in the World Cup finals 0 to 3.

Friendly match: Japan vs Real Madrid
On May 7, Japan played in Madrid in pouring rain and the pitch all wet. In the 26th minute a free kick by Brazilian Roberto Carlos was placed into the goal by Edwin Congo. Figo of Portugal was also in the game, but just for a while. On the Japan side, Hide Nakata and Shinji Ono weres not playing. So both sides lacked their best line up. The game at any rate ended 1 to 0. It's Japan's national team's first loss this year.

Kirin Cup
* vs.Honduras on May 2
Held in Kobe, the game began with a heading shoot by Honduras's Luis Pienda. It was in the 14th minute. Then in the 26th minute, Japan's Shunsuke Nakamura succeeded in a penalty kick. The ball seemed the slip between the hands of the goalkeeper. But just a minute after, Carlos Pavon headed in his team's 2nd goal. In the 41st minute, it was Shunsuke Nakamura again. He kicked in from the corner. And just before the end of the first half, it was Pavon again to score to give Honduras the lead again. In the later half of the game, Japan caught up with Alessandro Santo's penalty kick. The match ended a 3 to 3 draw.

* vs.Slovakia on April 29
It was hard to tell who actually goaled for Japan. Akinori Nishizawa passed the ball, it appeared as if Hiroaki Morishima go it in from right in front of the goal. But it was ruled the Nishizawa actually gave the final touch for Japan's only score. It was in the 38th minute of the game. Japan had a couple of chances to kick in more goals, but the game ended 1 to 0.

Friendly match: Japan vs Costa Rica
The game was held at the site of the final match of the World Cup, Yokohama International Stadium on Apr 17. It was opened by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi who kicked the ball slightly to the side. But he seemed satisfied. It was in the latter half of the game that the excitement developed. Japan's Tomokazu Myojin with the Kashiwa Reysol gave a loop shoot from the side, driving the ball inside the goal. But less than 10 minutes after that, Costa Rica's Parks shot in a goal. Although Japan tried to goal for a win by putting Shunsuke Nakamura into the game, it did not work. The game ended a tie.

Friendly match: Japan vs Poland
Japan played in the Polish city of Lodz on Mar 27. Japan's top international players, Hidetoshi Nakata of Parma, Shinji Ono of Feyenoord, Junichi Inamoto of Arsenal were all there. In the 10th minute, Hide goaled. Then in the 42nd minute, Naohiro Takahara who played for Boca Junior kicked in the ball. Japan defeated Poland 2 to 0.

Friendly match: Japan vs Ukraine
In the 24th minute of the game, Kazuyuki Toda received a pass from Atsushi Yanagisawa. He kicked in the ball for Japan's first goal and the only goal of the game on Mar 21. It's the first time the national team is playing this year. The purpose of this game is to test how players are doing before the World Cup coming up. The match was held at a World Cup venue. It's Nagai Stadium. Some national team first timers got to play from Japan. One is Brazilian turned Japanese Santos Alexandro.

IN 2001
Toyota Cup: Bayern Munich vs Boca Junior
German club champion and Argentine club champion battled for the championship title on Nov 27 at Tokyo's National Stadium. It was a competitive game with neither team scoring. During extra time Samuel Kuffour of Ghana goaled for Bayern Munich. It was in the 19th minute. It's the first club championship victory since 1976 when it beat Belo Horizonte of Brazil. After the game, Boca players were in tears.

Japan vs Italy
Both national teams had a line-up of colorful players, and they played at the new Saitama Stadium on Nov 7. A crowd of over 61,000 packed the stadium. For Italy, Francesco Totti, Del Piero were here On the Japanese team, Hidetoshi Nakata joined from Italy's Parma, Naohiro Takahara from Argentina's Boca Junior and Shinji Ono from the Netherlands Feyenoord. To the surprise of Japanese fans, in the first 10 minutes, a ball passed from Junichi Inamoto of Arsenal was kicked in by Kashima Antlers Atsushi Yanagisawa. Italy caught up in the 51st minute when Cristiano Doni achieved a goal. The game ended a 1 to 1 tie. It's the last game this year for the Japanese national team.

Challenge Cup: Japan vs Australia
The Shizuoka Stadium which will be an official stadium for the World Cup 2002 was packed full on Aug 15. The Japanese team played well. First, the Antlers Atsushi Yanagisawa goaled. Then in the later half, it was Toshihiro Hattori who comes from Shizuoka. Popular Masashi "Gon" Nakayama was called to play from the last 20 minute of the game. He immediately succeeded in a PK. Japan won 3 to 0. Hattori was declared MVP.

Kirin Cup
* vs.Yugoslavia on July 4
At the new stadium in Oita, the game was played. In the first half, 20 minutes into the game, Junichi Inamoto kicked in a long goal. And that's the only goal in the game. Japan won 1 to 0. At the same time, Japan clinched the Kirin Cup for the 2nd straight year.

* vs.Paraguay on July 1
Atsushi Yanagisawa, who was out from the Confederations Cup due to injury played the central role. He goaled the team's first by receiving a pass from Shinji Ono. That was in the first half. In the later half, it was Yanagisawa again. Japan won 2 to 0 over Paraguay in Sapporo.

Japan's FIFA ranking
FIFA announced on June 20, that Japan's ranking has improved from the previous 44th to 33rd. Japan's 2nd place finish in the Confederations Cup contributed to it's rise. The top country remains France, while second, Brazil.

Japan Confederations Cup: Japan/Korea 2001
FINAL: vs France
Rain dumped on Yokohama before the start of the historic game for Japan on June 10. But Japan was without Hidetoshi Nakata. He went back to play with Roma. And, this may have hurt Japan. France had control of the ball most of the time in the 1st half of the game. And in the 29th minute, Patrick Vieira headed in a goal. Japan too, head a number of attempts at the goal but failed. The game finished 1 to 0 for France. Japan was second, while Australia 3rd.

SEMI-FINAL: vs. Australia
It was a rain storm in Yokohama on June 7. And the semi-final was played. In the 43rd minute, Japan gained a chance for a free kick. The kicker, Hidetoshi Nakata of Roma. And he blasted the ball into the goal. Japan, thereafter defended well, and defeated Australia 1 to 0. It will play France in the final on June 10.

vs. Brazil
The game was played in Kashima. The home ground of J.League team the Antlers. And it turned out to be very competitive. Both sides tried to intercept the ball. And they both attacked eachother's goal. Brazil had more chances though. However, Japan defended the goal. And the group ended a 0 to 0 tie. Japan finished Group B on top. Brazil was 2nd. Japan will play Australia in the semi-finals, while Brazil wil play France.

vs. Cameroon
For Japan, Cameroon was rated to be the most difficult to beat in Group B. 7 minutes into the game, Takayuki Suzuki reacted to Koji Nakata's long pass to kick in a goal. Then 20 minutes into the later half, it was Suzuki again. He headed in the ball passed by Hiroaki Morishima from the side. Japan had a surprising victory over Cameroon 2 to 0. And with the victory, it's secured its advancement to the semi-finals.

vs. Canada
Japan was on, the 2nd day of the Confederations Cup. Group B includes Brazil, Cameroon, and Canada. The game was held in Niigata on May 31 before a crowd of 39,000. The later half was where all the fun was for Japanese fans. Shinji Ono kicked in a freekick over 6 Canadians. And then Hiroaki Morishima gave a great pass which Akinori Nishizawa headed in. The final man to goal was Morishima himself. Japan won 3 to 0.

Japan vs Spain
In a friendly match, Japan played against Spain on Apr 25. Japan's goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi stopped the Spanish attach from time to time. And Japan defended well. But in the final minutes of the game, actually during injury time, Spain's Ruben Baraja, a substitute midfileder goaled to give his team a 1 to 0 win.

Japan vs France
Japan's national team played the first international match in 2001. It was on Mar.25 against world champion France in France. But Japan was no match for France. In front of a crowd of 77,000, Japan lost 2 goals in the first half, then another 3 goals in the later half. It did not score at all. The player that was given a high mark was AS Roma's Hidetoshi Nakata.

Japan- S.Korea vs World XI
As a lead up to the first World Cup in Asia, a team made up of the co-host stars was formed. It opposed the world all star team including Jose Luis Chilavert of Paraguay, but superstars such as Zinedine Zidane of France, Brazil's Leonardo were missing. And Romario, who came was out on the bench due to an injury. A crowd just over 46,000 looked on at the International Stadium Yokohama on Jan.3. It's reported that initially nearly 70,000 tickets were gone when the soccer stars names were announced. But since some of those players withdrew from participating,20,000 fans asked for refunds. As to the game, the Japan-S.Korea team was the first to goal. Ko Jong Su who plays for Suwon Samsung blased a free kick. In the later half, Croatia's Rober Prosinecki came in to tie. Japan's superstar and veteran Kazu Miura took a shot at the goal but missed. All in all, it was a historic game.


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