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Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2003

Japan to face Portugal


By KUMI KINOHARA
Staff writer

Japan to face Portugal Japan will likely play EURO 2004 host Portugal at home in June and away in October as a part of its build-up program under national team coach Zico, the Japan Football Association announced Monday in Tokyo.

The first meeting is likely to be held June 13 or 14 as the second match of the Kirin Cup, which will also feature a full-strength Argentina on June 8 at Osaka's Nagai Stadium in the first match.

The annual tournament will serve as a tuneup for Japan prior to the Confederations Cup, slated for June 18-29 in France. According to the JFA, Portugal is expected to visit the Asian champion here with its best players, such as Luis Figo and Lui Costa.

Apart from the Kirin Cup, Japan is scheduled to play a total of 15 matches, and possibly two more if Japan gets through the first round of the Confederations Cup.

The 15-game calendar includes three friendlies at home, against Serbia-Montenegro on Aug. 20 at National Stadium, Senegal on Sept. 10 and Cameroon on Nov. 19 (venues to be announced). Japan will visit South Korea on April 16.

"The key tournament for our team's growth this year is the Confederations Cup," Zico said. "It's important to see if Japan can perform away from home as well as they do at home."

To replace the canceled U.S. tour initially scheduled for March 26 and 29, the JFA is arranging a friendly to host Uruguay and one other team around the same time.

The JFA also fixed two friendlies for its Olympic team to warm up for the coming qualifiers. The young U-22 side will play Costa Rica on April 1 and Ecuador on May 21.

Japan will likely play the second round of the Asian qualifiers for the 2004 Olympics in early May at home. The final round of qualifiers will be staged from Aug. 30 through Oct. 18, home and away.

Meanwhile, the JFA officially announced new technical staff for Zico. Edu, Zico's brother and former manager of Iraq, was named as technical adviser while Takeshi Satouchi was selected as physical trainer and Brazilian Antonio Cantarele from Corinthians as goalkeeping coach. All of them have previously worked with Zico at the Kashima Antlers.



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