Final preparations for England's bid to become the champions of Europe began this evening with a friendly against Japan in the first game of the FA's Summer Tournament. While fans didn't get
to witness a flurry of goals, the game will have served well for Eriksson and his coaching staff as they tweek the team as they deem necessary for England's first Euro 2004 game, against France,
on 13 June.
The performance by England was not the best and they clearly need to tighten up in areas and not give the opposition as much room as they did tonight when they have lost possession. That said,
there were positive displays by a few players, not least Steven Gerrard. It was the Liverpool captain who created England's goal. He tested Japan's 'keeper, Narazaki, who couldn't keep hold of Gerrard's shot - the ball was loose and Owen was there to knock the ball into the net from 10 yards out. England were lucky not to conceed a penalty when Scholes fouled Santos but the referee waved for play to continue.
A number of times Japan threatened England's defence, and a number of times, England's defence looked shaky. The wall around David James finally collapsed in the 53rd minute when Japan's Santos raced down the left side of the field and played the ball to an unmarked Ono. The scoreline was level and would remain that way until the final whistle blew. Japan will feel unlucky not to have won the game as they seemed to be the better side, and England will consider themselves lucky with a draw.
The result and performance by certain players left a lot to be desired, and the team must now work on getting it right for when it matters.
James, G Neville (P Neville 85 mins), Terry (King 88 mins), Campbell, Ashley Cole, Scholes (Dyer 77 mins), Beckham (J Cole 81 mins), Gerrard (Hargreaves 82 mins), Lampard (Butt 82 mins), Owen (Vassell 77 mins), Rooney (Heskey 77 mins).
Subs Not Used: Bridge, Robinson, Carragher, Walker, Defoe. (Full Squad)
Narazaki, Nakazawa, Miyamoto, Tsuboi, Santos, Ono, Inamoto (Fukunishi 90 mins), Kaji, Nakamura, Tamada (Suzuki 60 mins), Kubo (Yanagisawa 60 mins).
Subs Not Used: Doi, Kawaguchi, Miura, Tanaka, Chano, Fujita, Ogasawara, Endo, Motoyama.
England Goal: Owen (22 mins)
Japan Goal: Ono (53 mins)
Referee: Roberto Rosetti (Italy)