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20,000 watch Japan play practice match

© Reuters 2002

By Alastair Himmer

SHIMIZU, Japan, Feb 27 (Reuters) - World Cup co-hosts Japan wrapped up a three-day training camp with an inter-squad practice match played in numbingly cold conditions in Shizuoka on Wednesday.

Almost 20,000 people turned out to watch the match between the sides selected by coach Philippe Troussier from an original 32-man squad depleted by the absence of overseas players and injuries.

The scrappy encounter at Nihondaira Stadium, home of J-League side Shimizu S-Pulse, was settled by a penalty from Kashima Antlers striker Takayuki Suzuki.

The Japan Football Association charged admission for the game to raise money for the victims of the September 11 attacks in the United States and the relief effort in Afghanistan.

Troussier, whose World Cup preparations have been hit by a growing injury list which includes experienced Jubilo Iwata pair Hiroshi Nanami and Toshihiro Hattori, said: "The camp went well and there were no injuries. It was not the target today to look for new players.

"We were not trying to put the players under pressure. It was a training match and a different atmosphere for them."

The Frenchman added that he would be selecting exactly the same group of players for the next training camp in nearby Gotemba on March 11-12. A Japan side will play the national under-20s on March 19, two days before the Japanese take on Ukraine in a friendly in Osaka.

Japan's European-based players Hidetoshi Nakata (Parma), Shinji Ono (Feyenoord), Junichi Inamoto (Arsenal) and goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi (Portsmouth) are expected to be back for selection for the next friendly, away to Poland on March 27.

Japan play Belgium, Russia and Tunisia in Group H at the World Cup finals this summer, to be co-hosted with South Korea.

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