Japan’s soccer samurais have arrived in Australia and are wasting no time getting in some match practise. Today Japan will play one of two friendly fixtures in preparation for the Asian Cup. The unlikely location for the match is Cessnock, neighbouring Hunter Valley wine country.
More often associated with wine production and rugby league icons the Johns brothers, Cessnock has landed a major coup. Located 35 minutes from Newcastle CBD the township will not only host Japan vs Auckland City today, but Cessnock is also providing Japan’s pre-tournament accommodation.
Cessnock Sportsground green keeper Greg Chappell said of the venue and surface, “You won’t see it like this again.”
The pitch is the home of local rugby league side the Cessnock Goannas, and Chappell was of the opinion that once the league season was in full swing (April-May) the surface would resemble a cow paddock.
Nevertheless the pitch is currently in pristine condition and though the match is a friendly, Japan is expected to give opponents Auckland City a dressing down. The Kiwi club side (semi professional) is fresh from an unbelievable run to the semi finals of the World Club Cup.
The Navy Blues (Auckland City) themselves have two Japanese nationals in their squad. Thirty-one year old Takuya Iwata and twenty-five year old Kohei Matsumoto are expected to start for Auckland with Matsumoto coming in for the injured Simon Arms. The two will no doubt be taking the friendly very seriously. Adding to their Japanese contingent the Auckland City squad reads like a United Nations general assembly. The squad includes: Serbian, Spanish, Korea Republic, Potuguese, South African, Papua New Guinean, Nigerian, English and Croatian members.
With the Cessnock Sportsground in the condition it is, no amount of international flavour will allow Auckland City to trouble Japan, and with a well known betting agency offering $1.28 for the Samurais, it looks to me like taking candy from a baby.