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Okada: Osim won’t cast shadow over team

by Andrew Mckirdy

Japan coach Takeshi Okada insists the presence of predecessor Ivica Osim, will not cast a shadow over his team against Bosnia-Herzegovina at National Stadium on Wednesday night.

Okada took charge of the national side for a second time after Osim suffered a serious stroke in December, but the Bosnian has since recovered sufficiently to be in attendance as his former charges take on his countrymen in a friendly match.

Okada got his second reign off to a drab start on Saturday with a lackluster 0-0 draw against Chile, using an almost carbon copy of Osim’s preferred lineup.

But Okada insists he is in the process of molding his side in his own image with qualification matches for the 2010 World Cup beginning Feb. 6 against Thailand in Saitama.

“If winning in front of Osim increased my bonus, then I would feel pressure,” he joked at a news conference on Tuesday.

“As far as I’m concerned, all I am focused on is getting the players ready for tomorrow and hopefully getting us a result. It doesn’t make me feel any pressure.”

Japan struggled to find a rhythm against Chile, with key players such as Naohiro Takahara, Yuji Nakazawa and Yasuhito Endo looking out of sorts with the J. League currently in its off-season.

Striker Yoshito Okubo breathed some life into the team when he came off the bench as a second-half substitute, and looks set to get the nod as the spearhead of a four-man midfield diamond against Bosnia.

With Takahara and fellow striker Seiichiro Maki also likely to start, Okada is laying all his cards on the table as he attempts to make good on his promise to bring an attacking spirit to the side.

“Tomorrow’s game is the final match before the World Cup matches begin,” he said. “It will be a completely different game from the one against Chile.

“I don’t know much about the Bosnian team, but I know they are physically strong and technically sound. It will be a good test for us.

“I could make excuses for the Chile game. I could say the players hadn’t played for a while, but I don’t want to make excuses.”

Atsuto Uchida, Kashima Antlers’ 19-year-old right back, looks certain to begin the match in place of Akira Kaji, suggesting the stalwart Gamba Osaka defender’s days as an automatic first choice could be numbered. Kengo Nakamura should partner with Endo and Okubo in midfield, with Keita Suzuki assuming his usual position as the screen behind the attack-minded trio.

Satoru Yamagishi, who has struggled to make the step up to the international level, is likely to be the only player from Saturday’s match to miss out.