Japan played Costa Rica down in Tampa, Florida in a World Cup friendly that truly showed what both sides are capable of. The final score was 3-1 in favor to the Japanese as their second half performance was nothing short of intelligently hurried.
Costa Rica managed to hit Japan on the counter towards the end of the first half when captain Bryan Ruiz tapped home a cross. This was one of their best chances and they were unable to create more dangerous opportunities in the second half as they were carefully trapped by their opponents.
The key decision by coach Alberto Zaccheroni put in Yasuhito Endo and Shinji Okazaki to add more pace, skill and more intelligent play inside the final third. This paid dividends as captain Keisuke Honda found Endo for an easy tap-in to equalize.
Shinji Kagawa showed us why he is the No. 10 as a nifty little give-and-go with a teammate inside the area led to his brilliant shot that hit the post then the back of the net for the first Japanese lead of the night.
The scoring ended later on when Yoichiro Kakitani slid to roll the ball home into the corner before the final whistle.
The winners played a decent first half but were unable to find the back of the net as the players at hand in the final third had trouble connecting successfully. With the second half subs, they made a lot more happen…especially since they had more experience and fresher legs that made life difficult for the Costa Ricans.
The stamina and overall physical shape played a huge factor in the ultimate scoreline of the match. Costa Rica did well in the first half, but they allowed Japan to go on numerous counters in the second and were unable to peg them back for more than 10 seconds at a time in their own half. Japan were simply too strong and determined and played team ball which proved too much to handle.
Next up for Japan will be a friendly against Zambia again in Tampa while Costa Rica travel up the coast to face the Republic of Ireland in Chester, Pennsylvania.