Stojkovic urges Japan to heed ‘slap in face’

by Gus Fielding

Kyodo News

MIYOSHIGAOKA, Aichi Pref. — Dragan Stojkovic has described Japan’s crushing 3-0 defeat at home to his native Serbia on Wednesday as a timely “slap in the face” and reckons the Blue Samurai must show a nastier streak to avoid stumbling at the first hurdle at the World Cup finals.

The Nagoya Grampus boss said he found Japan’s lack of motivation against Serbia’s “C team” disturbing, particularly as the friendly was serving as the final audition for South Africa for a number of players on the outskirts of the team and was played before a sellout crowd at Nagai Stadium.

“They have an obligation to play for the spectators and especially two months before the World Cup they have to be more motivated. I am very disappointed. I didn’t see the movement. This is very dangerous,” Stojkovic said on Thursday.

“Japan is always a kind team and they play kindly football and everybody knows they are not aggressive. It is very easy to criticize after the game but two months before the World Cup people are concerned. Big red warning signs are flashing and hopefully this slap in the face will wake them up. If it doesn’t, then they need another slap in the face.

“With this kind of attitude they have no chance (at the World Cup). It will be very, very difficult. I cannot understand the attitude of the players.”

Japan boss Takeshi Okada has ambitiously targeted a place in the semifinals in South Africa, but the 53-year-old has come in for criticism in the wake of a series of inept performances in recent months.

But Stojkovic, who helped the former Yugoslavia reach the quarterfinals of the 1990 World Cup, insists it is the players who have to take responsibility.

“Let’s not talk about Okada, let’s talk about the attitude of the players. I think it is a shame, this kind of attitude, playing without a fighting spirit,” he said.