Japan goal drought continues against Zimbabwe

GEORGE, South Africa - Japan were unable to shake out of its scoring slump, labouring to a 0-0 draw with Zimbabwe on Thursday in their final World Cup warm-up match.

With just one goal from their previous four matches, Japan coach Takeshi Okada juggled his line-up, moving attacking midfielder Keisuke Honda up into a centre forward's role in a bid to end the goal drought.

"I have practised this way of playing form time-to-time and I have been told there is possibility of having this role," Honda told reporters. "I have been preparing for it so it is no surprise for me.

"It is the first time for me to take that role and I found it fairly comfortable. The playing time was short but I had a good number of chances. We didn't score but created some good attacking patterns."

Japan has been shutout by the Ivory Coast, South Korea, Serbia and Zimbabwe in a stretch of poor form which also includes a 2-1 loss to England.

Played in an empty stadium, Japan enjoyed a huge advantage in possession against Zimbabwe but lacked a finishing touch.

Desperate to find some momentum ahead of their Group E opener against Cameroon on Monday, Japan officials hastily arranged a match against Mozambique but at the last minute the opposition was switched to Zimbabwe, who lost 3-0 to Brazil earlier in the week.

The match was played over three 30-minute periods at Outeniqua Park in Japan's training base in George.

"I think it worked out OK," said Okada, without revealing whether Honda would move up to a centre forward against Cameroon. "It did not affect the shape of the team, we had a good balance and we were able to create some chances but still I was hoping they could do more with the ball."

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