Spain 1 - Japan 0
Cañizares (Casillas 75'); Manuel Pablo (Puyol 68'), Nadal
(Téllez 46'), Paco, Sergi; Mendieta (Vicente 46'), Guardiola,
Iván Helguera (Baraja 31'), Munitis; Raúl (José Mari 46'),
Report by our international correspondents Borja Pantzov and Goran Arsic.
Hello again everyone, and it's off to Córdoba in Andalucia to watch "la selección" play there for the first time in their history. This should be an easy one, Japan are ranked number 42 in the world. I don't know how many countries there are, maybe 200 or so with all the little ones springing up every day, but in any case you just have to look at recent figures. I mean, we beat France 2-0, Japan lost to France 5-0, so that makes it seven or maybe even ten if you multiply. Camacho doesn't take it too seriously, although he names a 20 man squad as this is his last trial before two World cup qualifiers in June, and he has to get an idea of his squad. But when it comes to the crunch, all his forwards are injured. No Morientes, no Javi Moreno, no Urzaiz. So he brings in a second division striker Atlético Madrid's Salva, only the second player from the lower divisions in 30 years, and the other was Tomás Christiansen, who theoretically was from Barcelona B but was in Barça's first team at the time. AC Milan's José Mari is also called up, a surprise choice as he isn't playing for their first team much, and Villarreal's Víctor or even Real Madrid's Guti are currently on top form. Tamudo also gets a phone call, but he gets injured at the weekend (as does Hierro) and the squad is reduced to eighteen. Incidentally Camacho said that he didn't call up Guti or Luis Enrique as he will leave them for the next round of games, so maybe they will be back next time.
The television commentators are going to have a nightmare with this one as they can't even say McManaman after he has been playing here for two years, so heaven knows how they are going to get on with the Takahara's and the Inamoto's of this world, not to mention that they are all of similar build and looks (except for Uemura whose shock of hair makes him stand out). Still they have to learn, as Japan will be co-hosting the World Cup in just over a year's time. Goran in fact has bought himself an overexpensive Japanese phrase book from a shady looking character near the ground to prepare for next summer, but when he opens it up he sees to his dismay that it is written in Kanji. We don't know any of the Japanese side except for Nishizawa, and he is not in the starting line up. We are disappointed to see as well that our old friend Shoji Jo is not in the squad, but Roma's Nakata is in the starting eleven.
The crowd turned up in droves, the game being a sell out days before, and there is a small but noisy Japanese contingent out-drumming even Manolo el Bombo with their instruments. We are told as well that no less than 6 million people will be watching this game live in Japan at 5 o'clock in the morning! We are all embarrassed as the teams line up for the national hymns, with a barely audible and rapidly truncated Spanish anthem being played when the Japanese anthem was announced, and then nothing more. Typical Andalucian "chapuza" (i.e. cock up). But there is worse to come, as a better than expected Japanese side keep our boys at bay for much of the match. Playing good passing football and running the socks off our men, Spain are unable to make any real advance on Kawaguchi's goal. Raúl has the first shot on target after twelve minutes, but it goes straight at Kawaguchi. The keeper is putting in a good performance, and makes three saves in five minutes, from Helguera and twice from Raúl, tipping his second shot over the bar. Then we lose Helguera, who limps off with an injury to his heel, and Baraja comes on. Cañizares has to be quick to save at the feet of Inamoto and then the young striker Takahara as Japan counterattack rapidly.
At half time Camacho takes off three of his veterans, Nadal, Mendieta and Raúl, and brings on Téllez, Vicente and José Mari. Both Téllez and José Mari are getting their first caps, although both had been in previous squads and not had a chance to play as time ran out. Later on he puts on the rest of his substitutes, including Puyol who was recalled to the squad, Casillas and Sergio. The second half is even more frustrating than the first. José Mari, Salva and Baraja all get scoring opportunities but can make nothing of them. At the other end Hato, probably Japan's best player, tests Cañizares with a long shot, and Takahara (who looks a bit like Urzaiz) shoots over the bar. Japan's French manager Jean Phillippe Troussier (known apparently as the green beret for his hard training methods) brings on a string of substitutes including Nishizawa to waste time, realising he has a chance to get an away draw against one of the strongest sides in Europe.
The crowd start to get on the backs of the Spanish players, but then thankfully Baraja saves all our blushes with an injury time goal, taking a through ball from Munitis to beat the despairing Kawaguchi. Yugoslavian referee Miroslav Radoman blows the final whistle soon afterwards, and we all breath a sigh of relief. It was only a friendly, but the press, probably upset about having to remember all those foreign names, give Camacho a hard time. There can be no room for more experiments in the next two games against Bosnia in Oviedo and Israel in Tel Aviv. That will be for real. Otherwise we may not get to play Japan again for a long time. We leave Córdoba rather dejectedly after Goran unsuccessfully tired to sell his phrase book to a passing Japanese jounalist. This was not our day.