If the pressure was well and truly on Japan coach Takeshi Okada going into his side’s World Cup qualifier with Australia in Yokohama, then the resultant 0-0 draw will have done little to alleviate it.
Japan dominated in front of 65,571 fans at Yokohama International Stadium, but a combination of poor finishing and dogged defending from the Socceroos saw Pim Verbeek’s team snatch a hard-earned point.
Missing English Premier League stars Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka and Brett Emerton through injury, Pim Verbeek’s decision not to field a single recognised striker from the start spoke volumes for Australia’s approach to this clash.
It was left to the Blue Samurai to dictate the tempo as they surged Togel Hongkong forward in search of an early goal to calm the nerves of the home fans, and they almost found one when Nagoya Grampus striker Keiji Tamada hit the side netting after just five minutes.
Japan frustrated by a dour Australia in Yokohama
Japan’s best chance arrived from a Shunsuke Nakamura free-kick, but the Celtic wizard fired his effort well over the crossbar.
When Gamba Osaka midfielder Yasuhito Endo took over free-kick duties late in the first half he failed to even beat the wall – however the diminutive midfielder did manage to sting Mark Schwarzer’s palms with a stinging long-range drive with twenty minutes remaining.
For their part Australia managed just a solitary shot on goal for the entirety of the match, as Verbeek’s plan to take a point from this tricky-looking fixture came to fruition.
Australia’s spoiling tactics were lamented in some circles Down Under, but on the whole the pragmatic Dutchman has received faint praise for taking 10 points from the opening four final round qualifiers.
Japan’s next clash is at home to Bahrain in Saitama on March 28, while on April 1 Australia take on Uzbekistan in Sydney
Fifa World Rankings February 2009
In another quiet month, there are no changes in the top 11 teams, European champions Spain stay top of this month’s Fifa world rankings followed by Germany and the Netherlands in 3rd. England stay in 8th place.
Brazil are in 5th. Cameroon are the highest African team in 16th. Russia are 9th with the USA up to 20th.
Brazil had previously failed to convince in the first round group stage with a defeat against Uruguay and a draw against Paraguay. Question marks were appearing above much hyped players such as Douglas Costa and Walter.
Their division for the first round stage certainly lived up to its billing as The Group of Death with qualifiers Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay claiming the top three places in the final hexagonal group.
These three teams will now travel to the under-20 World Cup in Egypt later this year along with hosts Venezuela who finished up fourth.
One team that won’t be travelling to North Africa is current under-20 word champions Argentina and participants in the World Cup for the past 16 years.
Argentina’s campaign eventually came to an end with a one-nil defeat to Colombia, the other team to miss out on a World Cup berth from the final hexagonal tournament.
Argentina’s exemplary record at this level has seen then win five of the last seven under-20 World Cups but they will not be there to defend their title this time around.
The Argentines only managed to record one victory at the tournament. This two-one win against a Peru team who lost every game was backed up with five draws and three defeats.