Set-pieces Japan’s Achilles heel at World CupJune 5th, 2010 - 4:59 pm ICT by IANS
London, June 5 (IANS) As Japan gears up for the football World Cup, pundits feel that set-pieces are its Achilles’ heel.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Japanese commentators lamented their national team’s “physical shortcomings” after their 0-2 defeat to the Ivory Coast but coach Takeshi Okada remains upbeat.
The Japanese were beaten by the much-fancied Ivory Coast Friday in Sion, Switzerland, marking the first time they have suffered four straight defeats in 12 years.
Japan play the Netherlands, Denmark and Cameroon in World Cup Group E while Ivory Coast face Brazil, North Korea and Portugal in Group G.
The result comes in the wake of humiliating losses to a second-string Serbia and South Korea - and a 1-2 defeat to England in which they conceded two own goals.
Both goals Friday came from free kicks and Japan were bombarded by long balls behind their defenders as the Ivory Coast created a series of chances.
Sports Hochi said Japan coach Takeshi Okada was cluless about team’s continuing problems with set pieces and Okada hit back by revealing that exposing his players to such tactics ahead of the World Cup was all part of his plan.
“I deliberately chose to play top teams to toughen the players up for the World Cup,” Okada told Japanese media.
“The confidence of the players has taken a bit of a knock maybe,” added the 53-year-old.
“But we’re a team and I trust the players to pull together and produce something extra at the World Cup. Clearly we need to score goals. To do that we need to take a few more risks,” he said.
Japan Football Association (JFA) president Motoaki Inukai added his weight to the argument by ordering Japan to take their medicine ahead of the team’s World Cup opener against Cameroon on June 14.
“It was a good test timing-wise to play Ivory Coast before the Cameroon game,” Inukai said. “But what was worrying was that the players looked frightened.”
Former Japan coach Zico, who ended with one draw and two defeats at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, had predicted that Japan would face an uphill battle making up for their lack of physical stature.
“Japan will face a lot of long crosses from behind whenever they play a team which has a height advantage,” the Brazilian legend said.
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Tags: achilles heel, daily telegraph, football world cup, free kicks, inukai, ivory coast, japan coach, japan football association, japan football association jfa, japan play, japanese media, north korea, okada, second string, set pieces, sion switzerland, south korea, sports hochi, world cup pundits, zico