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Japan's strong rearguard effort denies South Korea victory

South Korea and Japan fought out a 0-0 draw yesterday in a blood-and-thunder friendly lacking only goals to mark a pulsating game between the Asian rivals. Japan, who stunned Argentina 1-0 last week in their first match under Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni, pushed South Korea hard in Seoul during the first half.

Midfielder Keisuke Honda went close with two long-range efforts and Park Chu-young shaved the bar with a brave header for the Koreans, watched from the bench by injured talisman Park Ji-sung.

Park Chu-young forced a decent save from Japan goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa in the 63rd minute and the dangerous Monaco striker also went close with another header. "It was the technique of Japan against the physicality of South Korea," Zaccheroni, who has been hailed as a miracle worker since beating Argentina, said.

"Japan is a great team with excellent players but some need to trust in their ability more. If they do that they can improve a long way."

South Korea, whose 2-0 win in a World Cup send-off in May almost cost former Japan coach Takeshi Okada his job before the tournament, have 34 wins to Japan's 10 in 63 meetings.

New Zealand's fairy-tale run of results against top-class opposition ended in Auckland yesterday as World Cup quarter-finalists Paraguay took advantage of a rejigged defence to record a 2-0 victory in a friendly.

The All Whites were without the calming influence of captain and central defender Ryan Nelsen, who was ruled out with a thigh strain, which Paraguay exploited at every opportunity at Westpac Stadium.

Both of Paraguay's goals came in the first half when the defence was caught out with Ben Sigmund bringing down Edgar Benitez in the box. Nelson Valdez converted the resulting penalty in the 22nd minute.

Osvaldo Martinez's run from deep five minutes later then sprung the flat-footed defence and he calmly chipped over the advancing Mark Paston to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.

Valdez could have put the game beyond doubt before the break after he was played onside by a wayward Sigmund, but instead blasted the ball into Paston's legs.

The All Whites had their best chance early in the second half when captain Tim Brown's shot cannoned into Justo Villar's legs.