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Zaccheroni left with regrets

by Gus Fielding

Kyodo

Coach Alberto Zaccheroni conceded he must share the blame for Japan’s failure to make their mark at the two most important competitions of his four-year tenure after the Samurai Blue were dumped out of the World Cup in the first round on Tuesday.

Zaccheroni, who won the Asian Cup and has guided the team to some impressive results against the likes of Argentina, France, Belgium and the Netherlands since he was appointed in 2010, admitted he was unsure of his future after a 4-1 defeat to Colombia wrecked the team’s slender hopes of advancing to the round of 16.

The 61-year-old Italian said he would have “doubts that would harbor inside him” after Japan paid the price for taking “the wrong approach” at this tournament and the Confederations Cup last year in Brazil, where Japan lost all three games.

Japan left itself an insurmountable task ahead of the Colombia game after an opening 2-1 defeat to Cote d’Ivoire and a 0-0 draw with 10-man Greece.

“I am convinced I selected the most suitable players to try to get them to grow in terms of the intensity of our play. They were the right players to grow at an international level, the right players to impose their play in the international arena,” Zaccheroni told the post-match press conference.

“And we did on many, many occasions, if you take a look at the matches we played. But we’ve fallen short of that recently and we had the wrong approach in the two competitions at the highest level — the Confederations Cup and the World Cup.

“If I had to go back the only thing I would change — more than tactically, more than technically — is to manage the way we started mentally given the experience of this World Cup.”

The former AC Milan boss said it was difficult to pinpoint exactly where it all went wrong at the World Cup, but when asked to elaborate on what he meant, he explained that failing to keep possession in the first game had damaged the team’s chances.

“We are all surprised — myself, the fans, the squad and the management. Everyone was surprised by the fact that the approach was not a positive one and this is a doubt that will remain within me.

“We should have attacked the competition in a different way. We should have had better ball possession. That is our team philosophy. That is exactly what we had worked on.

“In our half of the pitch we should have passed more quickly and when we lost the ball we should have had the right distance to recover the ball straightaway. None of this happened in the first two matches.

“Physically I think we could have performed a lot better. I know this, but my players know it, too.”

Zaccheroni also said he felt he had received more than he had put in during his four years in Japan.

“There are no words to describe it really. When I arrived in Japan I didn’t think I would find the country I have discovered, such a culture and such a people.

“These four years have given me a whole lot, a lot more than I have given them. It has been an incredible experience.”