Japan and Holland fought out an entertaining 2-2 draw in Belgium on Saturday as they partook in a friendly match, stepping up their World Cup 2014 preparations.
Japan had the early chances in the match, with Keisuke Honda blazing a free-kick over, Hotaru Yamaguchi shooting wastefully from 15 yards out and Shinji Okazaki missing from close range, all in the first seven or eight minutes of the game.
It was Holland who took the lead, though, after 12 minutes, Rafael van der Vaart taking advantage of hesitant defending to lob the ball over the Japan goalkeeper and into the net for the opening goal.
Half-chances ensued at either end, but Arjen Robben gave warning of what was to come with a curling shot after the half-hour mark. Nishikawa saved that one but could do nothing about the repeat performance on 38 minutes which found the top corner for 2-0.
Yuya Osako quickly pulled a goal back with a smart first-time finish to make it 2-1 before half-time.
The second half started with Japan showing far better possession use and playing at a quicker tempo, and they were rewarded with an equaliser from Honda just before the hour mark. A fine team move ended when he swept home inside the near post for 2-2.
Both sides had opportunities to win the game thereafter, though it was certainly Japan who made more of the running and substitute Yoichiro Kakitani had the best chance to win the game, only to shoot wide with just Cillessen to beat.
Key Player Grades:
Arjen Robben: B
Robben took his goal exceptionally well and in the first half looked as hard-working and creative as he has been for Bayern of late, having been handed the Dutch captaincy in the absence of Robin van Persie. He and the rest of the Holland attack faded badly after the break, though, and he rarely impacted the game thereafter.
Rafael van der Vaart: B+
Like Robben, van der Vaart was a key player in the first half, scoring one and setting up the other as the Dutch took control. He was largely a chasing bystander in the second half, though, with Japan resurgent, and he rarely managed to get on the ball in the final third, other than blazing one shot high over the bar.
Keisuke Honda: B+
Honda operated in a deep midfield position to begin the game and, as such, was more of a link man than part of the attack. At half-time a number of switches allowed him to push on more and he was instrumental in the comeback. Several times his quick one-touch passing helped to open up the Dutch defence and he took his goal, the equaliser, extremely well.
|Japan Player Grades|
|Holland Player Grades|
|MD||N de Jong||C|
|MD||van der Vaart||B+|
|FW||S de Jong||C+|
Japan will play another friendly in Belgium, this time against the host nation themselves, on Tuesday.
Holland, meanwhile, will play a home friendly fixture against Colombia. Both Japan and Holland will feature at the World Cup next summer after winning a place in their respective qualifying zones.