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
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
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.
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