Football friendlies: Japan flies Asian flag highYOKOHAMA, Japan - In a series of friendlies played over the start of the weekend, Japan overcame Paraguay’s challenge to beat them with a solitary goal. Colombia - which couldn’t qualify for the 2010 World Cup - beat Venezuela 2-0, while Australia played out a hard-fought 0-0 draw against Switzerland. Euro 2010 co-hosts, Poland and Ukraine, also locked horns, coming up with 1-1 draw.
Japan 1 - Paraguay 0
Shinji Kagawa scored the winner as Japan beat Paraguay 1-0. Kagawa, who plays for German first division club Borussia Dortmund, scored in the 64th minute, taking a through pass from Kengo Nakamura and beating Paraguay goalkeeper Justo Villar with a right-footed shot that flew in off the post.
“Kengo made a great pass and I was able to score,” said the 21-year-old Kagawa, who joined Dortmund in July.
Moments after Kagawa struck, Japan’s goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima preserved the lead with a fine save to deny Paraguay forward Lucas Barrios.
Paraguay had come close to opening the scoring a minute into the second half, when Jonathan Santana fired inches wide of the right post.
The friendly was a rematch of their second-round game in June at the World Cup in South Africa, when Japan lost to Paraguay in a penalty shootout following a 0-0 draw.
Colombia 2 - Venezuela 0
Colombia defeated Venezuela 2-0 with goals from Juan Guillermo Cuadrado and Dayron Moreno.
Cuadrado scored with a powerful shot in the 17th minute and Moreno used his speed to beat the defense, adding the clincher in the 66th.
Both teams failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup and are regrouping for the 2011 Copa America in Argentina.
The match was played before 20,000 in the Puerto La Cruz, located about 350 kilometers east of the capital.
Switzerland 0 - Australia 0
Switzerland drew 0-0 with Australia ahead of its first European Championship qualifier after both teams wasted good chances to score.
Swiss captain Alex Frei missed a penalty in the second half, while Australia striker Scott McDonald shot over an empty goal early on.
Switzerland played without the injured Hakan Yakin and Tranquillo Barnetta, who was ill. World Cup goalkeeper Diego Benaglio was also absent, while English-born Scott Sutter made his first appearance for Switzerland.
Australia started strongly under new coach Holger Osieck but missed its first chance in the 10th minute when Lucas Neill lifted the ball over the goal after a header from Tim Cahill.
Soon after, Switzerland striker Albert Bunjaku failed to reach the ball with his thigh when in front of goal.
The home team’s careless defense gave Australia several more chances on goal but the Socceroos couldn’t convert.
Switzerland plays England in its first Euro 2012 qualifier on Tuesday.
Poland 1 - Ukraine 1
The co-hosts of the 2012 European Championship - Poland and Ukraine - shared a 1-1 draw in a friendly.
Poland had taken the lead in the 42nd minute through forward Ireneusz Jelen, who latched on to a precise pass from Jakub Blaszczykowski and sent a powerful shot inside keeper Andriy Pyatov’s left-hand post. Ukraine’s Yevhen Seleznyov leveled the game in the 92nd minute.
As joint hosts of Euro 2012, Poland and Ukraine do not have to qualify for the tournament.