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Tokyo: What can Japan learn from its dismal World Cup experience?

by Mark Buckton

Special To The Japan Times

In the wake of Japan’s early exit from the competition, Mark Buckton went looking for answers about what went wrong. He also caught up with some of the interviewees he spoke to before the World Cup finals kicked off in Brazil about their earlier predictions.

Felix Lill, 28
Journalist (German)

It went wrong on pretty much every level. The defense did not defend well and there was a lack of intelligence in their play. The same is true for the forwards, who could not score, let alone shoot on target, enough. But I don’t think Japan should change their game completely. The team showed they can play attractive football and just need to improve on how they go about that, and be a little bit more clever during games.

Motockney Nuquee, 33
Musician (Japanese)

The result we have all now accepted — what you call “their dismal World Cup experience” — can be in no doubt. To Japanese, this experience, starting with (ex-manager Alberto) Zaccheroni, who started off brilliantly as manager, gave us hopes and dreams. But, in the end, we have seen what happens when there is too much expectation, so in my opinion, the thing we must learn, first and foremost, is: FIFA’s ranking of Japan (46) is right!

Colton Runyan, 24
High school teacher (American)

Sadly, I only watched one of Japan’s games. It was really unfortunate that they were not played at optimal times for Japan. In the one game I did watch, against Greece, they seemed unable to capitalize on their chances. My own country’s culture has not made me a great critic of the sport, but the Japanese did seem to dominate in terms of efforts on goal and ball possession. Maybe they just need to learn how to capitalize.

Yuko Kaida, 39
University teacher (Japanese)

My impression is that the individuals on the Japan national team are all skillful, but because most of them play overseas, they don’t have enough time together to develop team skills. So, maybe they need longer together beforehand — or perhaps twice a year in a training camp might be helpful for the next World Cup.

Hirofumi Ueda, 25
Software developer (Japanese)

In my opinion, Japan just needs to know how to get more goals. They need better out-and-out strikers. At present we have no good strikers, so I would like to see them turn to “Captain Tsubasa” (the popular soccer manga) and see if Kojiro Hyuga, the forward in the manga, is available to join the national team. As for the defense, learning from this experience, they are what they are — I have given up on them.

Aska Sakuta, 25
Graduate student (Japanese)

I guess my interest in sports in general is in how they train the players mentally, and while I have don’t know all of Zaccheroni’s intentions, I do know he hoped to put more aggression into the team. So, perhaps one thing they can take away from this is how difficult it is to change a nation’s mentality. Aggression has never been a big thing in Japan’s game, even under managers from foreign countries.

Interested in collecting vox pops in your local area? Email community@japantimes.co.jp

  • phu

    “In my opinion, Japan just needs to know how to get more goals.”

    STOP THE PRESSES!

    “So, perhaps one thing they can take away from this is how difficult it is to change a nation’s mentality.”

    So basically, shoganai. Next…

  • Anil Samal

    The more and more the Japanese player go to outside club of Europe, there will be much more debacles like this.
    Going to Europe club is not bad. That is a good sign. But Japanese never know how to work as a team. The personal ego will always there. Not only in football, everywhere they fail only because of their personal ego.
    Each player are good, but not as a team.

  • Gordon Graham

    Stop playing so many friendly games against weak opponents…water seeks its own level.

  • Squidhead

    I don’t think there’s really anything to learn except more merchandising, more merchandising, more merchandising.

    It was a pleasure walking into FamilyMart every day and seeing the staff in Samurai Blue jerseys. Who cares who wins? The real winners here are retailers quick to jump on the latest fad.

  • Chandrakant Kulkarni

    I noticed that Japan team’s Feet were considerably deficient in many movements. They can surely improve after undergoing exhaustive sessions of Foot Massage.

  • Netgrump

    They disappointed given the way they played in friendly games before the World Cup tournament. Against the Netherlands they played very well. Japan needs more football players with the skills and above all mentality of a player like Honda to make progress.

    In the women’s Champions League [ situated in Europe for our 'soccer' fans ] I follow Saki Kumagai [ the defender who scored the winning penalty against the US of A in 2011] who’s playing for the European Champion Lyon. Why is she good? Because she’s not a typical Gyaru and can think and handle out of the box..