Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
Japan coach Okada too bubbly?
Perhaps he had celebrated too much on the flight back from Tashkent, but less than 24 hours later Japan coach Takeshi Okada was talking about reaching the World Cup semi-finals in South Africa. It is hard to imagine Spain’s Vicente del Bosque or England’s Fabio Capello losing much sleep.
The Japanese have had a bit of a bee in their bonnet ever since South Korea stole their thunder by becoming the first Asian side to reach the last four in 2002, when the two countries co-hosted the tournament.
An embarrassing flop at the 2006 finals in Germany under Brazilian coach Zico stung even more – so much so that Japan’s best player Hidetoshi Nakata lay sobbing on the pitch after their last match and promptly quit the game. Japan have done little since to suggest they are on the verge of breaking into the world’s top four.
Okada is no Guus Hiddink, who masterminded South Korea’s remarkable run to the 2002 semi-finals.
Asia’s allotment of four automatic World Cup berths, with a possible fifth via a playoff, means the likes of Japan, South Korea and Australia can hardly fail to qualify.
Spain showed they have taken the game to another level with their inspired Euro 2008 triumph, England have improved beyond recognition under Capello, while Brazil and Argentina will also be among the favourites in South Africa. Japan still lag behind South Korea, and arguably Australia, in Asia.
Okada’s bravado raised a few eyebrows, and may have put unnecessary pressure on the Japanese.
Photo credits: REUTERS/Issei Kato (file photos)
(Corrects paragraph 8 to … Euro 2008 …, not … Euro 2006)