Japan 1-2 England
By Marc Vesty
Two own goals gave England an unconvincing win over Japan in their final warm-up game before flying to South Africa for the World Cup.
England started sloppily and were punished after six minutes when Marcus Tulio Tanaka met Yasuhito Endo’s corner and crashed the ball past David James.
Frank Lampard had a penalty saved before England levelled when Tanaka headed Joe Cole’s cross in his own net.
And England stole the win when Yuji Nakazawa turned Ashley Cole’s ball in.
England boss Fabio Capello will trim his squad from the provisional 30 to a 23-man World Cup party on Tuesday and after the match the Italian revealed he had made his mind up who would be selected – but would not share the information.
Some questions still need to be answered. England fielded 17 different players and tried two formations in Graz, a first-half 4-4-2 followed by a more compact 4-4-1-1 for half an hour in the second half.
But while both will have given Capello food for thought, England looked more convincing when substitute Joe Cole played behind Rooney in the second half.
Capello could be forgiven for expecting a greater level of urgency from players desperate to impress. Instead England were lethargic in the opening stages and were caught out after only six minutes.
Worryingly, it was a straightforward set piece which found England napping.
Endo’s corner was met by Tanaka hurtling into the area and the centre-back managed to run across Glen Johnson before smashing a low drive beyond James.
After the 3-1 win over Mexico on Monday night, Capello revealed he had been furious with his side’s first-half display at Wembley, being particularly disappointed with their slow tempo.
The England boss had even gone to the extent of calling for his players to show an “English spirit” in his pre-match news conference – a call for his team to raise the intensity of their play.
But once again England struggled to find the fast-paced game the Italian craves, and instead were left watching as Japan, who will also be present in South Africa, took the initiative and put pressure on England.
Wingers Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott struggled to find space for the most part, although Lennon did spurn England’s best chance of the first half after 19 minutes, when set up by Wayne Rooney.
After being released by Tom Huddlestone, the Manchester United striker drove forward before toeing the ball into the path of Lennon as he broke into the area but the winger’s low left-footed drive was saved comfortably by Eiji Kawashima.
And it was Japan who continued to cause problems when, seconds later, Shinji Okazaki outmuscled Rio Ferdinand and got a sight of goal but lashed his shot over the bar.
The combination of Darren Bent and Rooney up front showed few signs of flourishing with the pair on different wavelengths.
And Bent, who will face an anxious wait to see whether he makes the squad on Tuesday morning, fluffed his lines when presented with a half chance.
A long ball from Ferdinand found the Sunderland striker on the penalty spot but, unaware of his position as the ball came over his head, Bent nodded the ball wide.
Meanwhile, Rooney, who will certainly be on the plane to Rustenburg on Wednesday, could not quite direct his half-chance towards goal after he cleverly back-heeled Huddlestone’s drive but the effort spun wide of the left post.
Capello made five changes at half time, replacing James, Johnson, Huddlestone, Walcott and Bent with Joe Hart, Jamie Carragher, Joe Cole, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Steven Gerrard.
The substitutions, which included playing Gerrard and Lampard together in the centre of midfield, had the desired effect of waking England from their slumber as tackles began to fly in and passes carried a more crisp edge.
Ten minutes into the second half England were handed a way back into the game when Endo handballed Lampard’s free-kick in the box but the midfielder’s penalty was saved by Kawashima down to his right.
For Lampard, England’s first-choice penalty taker, it was a second penalty miss in two weeks after the Chelsea man put his spot kick wide in the FA Cup final against Portsmouth.
But it was Japan who the threatened to score for a second time when Takayuki Morimoto caught Ashley Cole out of position and lashed an effort towards goal but Hart reacted quickly to push the ball away.
A curling top-corner-bound effort by Rooney was tipped wide by the impressive Kawashima as England started to press.
And Capello’s side were on level terms moments later when Joe Cole found space on the right and his curled cross was crashed home past his own goalkeeper by Tanaka.
As the rain lashed down in Austria a second own goal gave England a fortunate victory when Ashley Cole’s cross skidded off the turf and was turned in by Nakazawa.
Emile Heskey, a late second-half substitute, was teed up by Gerrard’s inch-perfect cross with two minutes to play but the Aston Villa striker headed wide when he should have done better, a miss which could cost his World Cup involvement.
England: David James (Joe Hart, 46), Glen Johnson (Jamie Carragher, 46), Ashley Cole, Tom Huddlestone (Steven Gerrard, 46), Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Theo Walcott (Shaun Wright-Phillips, 46), Frank Lampard, Darren Bent (Joe Cole, 46), Wayne Rooney, Aaron Lennon (Emile Heskey, 77).
Japan: Eiji Kawashima, Yuji Nakazawa, Marcus Tanaka, Yuto Nagatomo, Yusuyuki Konno, Yasuhito Endo (Keiji Tamada, 86), Makoto Hasebe, Abe Yujki, Keisuke Honda, Yoshito Okubu (Daisuke Matsui, 72), Shinji Okazaki (Takayuki Morimoto, 65).