Raw Japan

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Japan coach Okada too bubbly?

June 8, 2009

As expected, Japan booked their place in next year’s World Cup soccer finals with two games to spare, sparking wild celebrations after a 1-0 win over Uzbekistan on Saturday.

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.SOCCER-WORLD/

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.

SOCCER-WORLD/ASIA-JAPANIt is what happens once they get there that counts and only South Korea – and plucky North Korea in England at the 1966 finals – have made any real impact on the world’s biggest tournament thus far.

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)


Spain won Euro 2008, not Euro 2006.


He’s no Hiddink for sure. But he’s jus as good. Just b/c he’s asian doesn’t mean he’s incapable. It’s a culture thing (politeness vs rudeness) that Japan seems to be weak, but you’re kidding yourself. Japan only started to really play soccer some 30 years ago and the progress they’ve made is mind-boggling. Just like Honda, Toyota, the Samurai Blues will be a brand name pretty soon. And Okada-San wasn’t out of his mind when he inspired his team to reach the semi-finals or yonder. Well, Japan could pull a surprise just like they did at the Pearl Harbor, but this time would be for a good cause.

Posted by Ninh | Report as abusive

Hiddink masterminded south korea’s run??
like a lot of the korean media, you seemed to have turned a blind eye to the dubious linesmen and referees that helped them to get there.

Posted by James | Report as abusive

Stop being biased by youtube videos posted by Japanese nationalists, just watch the whole game.

Posted by J. | Report as abusive

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