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(LEAD) S. Korea and Japan play to a scoreless draw in friendly football match in Seoul
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Oct. 12 (Yonhap) -- Asia's fiercest sporting rivals South Korea and Japan put on a dreadful display of football Tuesday, playing to a scoreless draw in a friendly marked by poor passing and botched plays.

   Lethargic for most of the game, both teams displayed virtually no flow to their offense and appeared to be playing not to lose before just over 62,500 fans at the 65,000-seat Seoul World Cup Stadium,
Almost all of the action came in the last 30 minutes of the game, as the teams came out with more energy, after a dull first half in which neither team put up much of a fight.
South Korean captain Park Ji-sung sat out the match due to pain in his surgically repaired right knee. The absence of the field general who sets the tone for offense was conspicuous in South Korea's struggles to get past the Japanese midfield.

   "South Korea-Japan matches are always intense," said South Korean head coach Cho Kwang-rae after the game. "If we had played smarter, we would have given our fans the joy of victory and it's a shame we couldn't do that. I am not satisfied with the game tonight."

   Under the new head coach Alberto Zaccheroni, Japan had won three international matches in a row, including a 1-0 upset over Argentina last week. Cho noted that Japan under Zaccheroni "has grown stronger defensively" and Japanese defenders are able to launch faster counterattacks.

   Zaccheroni said the game was "anything but friendly" because of its physical nature and added that the South Koreans were better prepared mentally and physically.

   "South Koreans came out hard and we were not able to counter that and gain early control," Zaccheroni said. "Fortunately, we took advantage of our technical superiority later in the match, but overall, we failed to use the entire field tonight."

   South Korea came closest to scoring in the 57th minute. Japanese goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa bobbled Park Chu-young's header off Ki Sung-yueng's free kick but defender Yuto Nagatomo cleared the ball just as it was about to skip past the goal line.

   South Korea caught a huge break in the 76th minute, when referee Ravshan Irmatov missed an apparent handball violation by Choi Hyo-jin in the South Korean box. The play would have resulted in a penalty kick by Japan.

   Japan's best opportunity came with just five minutes remaining in the match. Keisuke Honda stole the ball in the midfield and charged toward the goal for a left-foot strike from a point-blank range. Only the fine punching save by South Korean keeper Jung Sung-ryong kept the game scoreless.

   In the 79th, Honda had almost set up a Japanese goal. The speedy forward drove past the hapless South Korean defense on the right wing set up the open Makoto Hasebe inside the box, but the Japanese captain sailed the ball over the net.

   Two minutes earlier, South Korean winger Yeom Ki-hun crossed for Park's head, but the shot went right at Nishikawa.

   Neither team had any dangerous scoring chances in the opening 20 minutes. Japan first threatened the South Korean net in the 26th minute, when Honda's left-foot strike from the left edge of the box forced a punching save by the diving goalkeeper Jung.

   The home team's best scoring chance in the first half came in the 31st, as forward Choi Sung-kuk saw his rolling shot dribble wide right of the goal post.

   This was the 73rd match between the regional rivals, and the third alone in 2010. South Korea, which won the two previous matches this year, has the substantial edge with 40 wins, 12 losses and 21 draws so far.

   It was also South Korea's final international match of 2010, as it gears up for the Asian Cup in January.

   jeeho@yna.co.kr
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