SAPPORO – Southampton defender Maya Yoshida has told his Japan teammates to flush the World Cup out of their system and try and restore bruised pride by giving new coach Javier Aguirre a win against Uruguay on Friday in his first game in charge.
Eliminated in the first round of the World Cup in Brazil in June after taking just one point from three games, Japan begins preparing for its Asian Cup title defense against the South Americans in Sapporo, before taking on Venezuela in another friendly in Yokohama on Tuesday.
“As you know, Uruguay is one of the top teams in the world, even without (missing Barcelona star Luis) Suarez,” Yoshida told Kyodo News after Wednesday’s training session.
“But it is up to us to show our quality to the new coach and the supporters as well because the supporters were disappointed about the results at the World Cup.”
“The World Cup was not a great experience for us,” added Yoshida, one of only 12 players from the Brazil squad to be called up by Aguirre.
“As the gaffer (Aguirre) said, we should focus on getting the title again at the Asian Cup in the winter. Now a new chapter starts for us.
“We have only been training for a few days (with Aguirre) so I am not sure about his football (philosophy) but he is a good guy, he likes to joke and talk to players. That is important for communication, although it will take time for the players and coach to adjust to each other.”
Japan won the Asian Cup in 2011 for a record fourth time and it has been given a potentially tricky draw against Jordan, 2007 champion Iraq and Palestine in the first round of the continental tournament in Australia in January.
Yoshida had an eventful tournament at the 2011 Asian Cup, scoring at both ends in an opening 1-1 draw against Jordan and being sent off in the 3-2 quarterfinal win over Qatar.
Japan’s London Olympic captain says he is not sure what to expect this time but is well aware that the likes of Palestine cannot be underestimated.
“It’s always difficult to play against Asian teams because they are so motivated to beat us. It’s not the same as playing Spain or Brazil,” he said.
“I’m not sure about those teams (in Japan’s group in Australia), but we just have to focus on our own play because we have a new coach. We have to play really hard against the teams we perceive to be small countries.”
Further warmups for Aguirre’s first real test at the Asian Cup have been penciled in for October, with Japan to face Jamaica at home on the 10th and Brazil in Singapore on the 14th.
There will be two more games in November in Toyota and Osaka against yet-to-be-decided opponents.