A stunning double save from Petr Cech allowed the Czech Republic to hold Japan to a 0-0 draw yesterday as the tri-nation Kirin Cup ended without a single goal being scored.
The Japanese and Czechs had both failed to break down Peru in the two previous games before Chelsea goalkeeper Cech ensured the winner-takes-all clash in Yokohama also finished in a stalemate.
"Nowhere in the world could a team improve as much in so little time as we have," Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni told reporters, slightly overcooking his praise after another tepid performance. "This team has tremendous potential."
Cech brilliantly saved a Shinji Okazaki header after 78 minutes before acrobatically blocking Tadanari Lee's follow-up from point-blank range, drawing gasps from a crowd of 65,000.
Japan defender Maya Yoshida wasted the best chance of the match seven minutes into the second half when he somehow headed over from two yards out with Cech stranded and the goal wide open.
"The fact we didn't score in the two games is something to chew over," said midfielder Keisuke Honda after Japan had gone a record 14th match unbeaten at home. "We need to play with a bit more intensity and take our chances."
The home side were playing their first competitive games since winning a record fourth Asian Cup in January and March's deadly earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan.
Peru and the Czechs agreed to travel to Japan after receiving assurances they would not be exposed to the risk of radiation from the nuclear crisis which is 150 miles north of Tokyo.
"If we can't beat teams like this at home we won't scare too many of the world's top teams," said Japan captain Makoto Hasebe.
"We were poor," added the German-based midfielder, though Japan played marginally better than against Peru. "There is room for improvement still. I apologise if we were boring."
"Japan were quality opponents," said Czech coach Michal Bilek. "We were missing some of our regular starters so I was a bit worried but the younger players coped well."
Meanwhile, Australia had Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici to thank as they held on for a 0-0 draw against a profligate Serbia in a friendly in Melbourne. Federici stood firm as Serbia, who lost 2-1 to Australia in the group stage of last year's World Cup in South Africa, peppered the goal in a frantic second half in front of a crowd of more than 28,000 on a chilly night at Docklands Stadium.
James Troisi missed the Socceroos' best chance to break the deadlock when, having only the keeper to beat, he prodded a weak shot into Damir Kahriman's arms.Reuse content