North Koreans 'pinched Zaccheroni's mustard'

Reuters

Fri, 18 Nov 07:50:00 2011

Over-zealous North Korean customs officers may have contributed to Japan's first defeat under Italian Alberto Zaccheroni earlier this week after confiscating his favourite tube of wasabi.

After a brush with customs in Pyongyang which lasted four hours and also resulted in players having bananas, chewing gum and instant noodles swiped, Japan were beaten 1-0 in Pyongyang.

"They took away his tube of wasabi at the airport and he didn't get it back," Japan Football Association (JFA) president Junji Ogura told Friday's Nikkan Sports newspaper.

Zaccheroni carries the spicy Japanese condiment with him on trips, squirting it on everything, even plain rice -- a recipe which worked, the Blue Samurai unbeaten in his first 16 games in charge.

"He always asks for wasabi and prefers the cheap (100 yen -- $1.30) tube to the expensive stuff," added Ogura, noting Zaccheroni had eaten little but bread for three days in Pyongyang.

"I apologised to him for there being no wasabi after the game."

Japan's defeat was otherwise academic, the Asian champions having already qualified for the final round of regional 2014 qualifiers. North Korea had already been eliminated.

"I was looking to experiment with a few things in Pyongyang," said Zaccheroni, whose team were a shadow of the team which began the year in such style.

"It was a bizarre place but we took some positives from the game."

Japan face Uzbekistan at home on Feb. 29 in their final match in the third round of Asian qualifiers when they will need to win to finish above the former Soviets in Group C. ($1 = 76.9850 Japanese yen)

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