Japan drew with Venezuela 1-1 in a home friendly on Friday with defender Hiroki Sakai netting his first goal for the Blue Samurai, who stay undefeated under their new coach.
The draw in Oita came as Japan are gearing towards an attempt at a record-extending fifth title in the Asian Cup starting in January.
Sakai scored a 39-minute opener for Japan as he fired a volley following Shoya Nakajima’s precise free-kick. It was his first goal for the national team on his 49th international.
In the second half, midfielder Tomas Rincon netted an equaliser for Venezuela from the penalty spot after a foul in the box by Sakai.
The Blue Samurai nipped at the South Americans’ heels and Maya Yoshida’s header squeezed the ball into the goal but it was disallowed for offside, silencing the 33,000 local fans.
Japan made it three wins and one draw from Hajime Moriyasu’s first four games following their surprise run to the last 16 of the World Cup under Akira Nishino.
“Our players made the best preparations and won the opener,” Moriyasu said.
“We wanted to add a goal to win but that’s what we have to overcome,” he said.
Venezuela coach Rafael Dudamel was quoted by Jiji Press as saying: “It was a tough match.
I’m satisfied as our players concentrated on the fight understanding Japan’s offence.” Last month Japan stunned Uruguay 4-3 as Takumi Minamino netted twice against the World Cup quarter-finalists.
Japan will take on Kyrgyzstan in another friendly Tuesday next week before going to the United Arab Emirates for Asia’s showcase tournament.