“Passion” is the story of Japan soccer team coach Philippe Troussier, his struggle to make it as a player and manager and his travels around France, Africa and Japan. In the book, Troussier also details his philosophy and thinking as he prepares for the World Cup in June.
In this, the eight of 10 exclusive extracts, Troussier explains how captain Ryuzo Morioka’s attitude changed after challenging his authority.
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In 2001, Shimizu S-Pulse defender Ryuzo Morioka impressed me as much as anyone, especially in the Confederations Cup and the Kirin Cup. He became an indispensable member of the team, and an indispensable leader.
His leadership, concentration and ability to judge the movement of the ball are quite remarkable. Players who have such qualities give me peace of mind, because my flat-three defensive system requires intense concentration and complex patterns of movement.
The three players who constitute the last line of defense also need to play further forward to function as a backup, and to add pressure, in the middle. The trio of Naoki Matsuda, Morioka and Koji Nakata form an offensive defense that lures opponents into the offside trap.
In the Confederations Cup, we repeatedly forced France and Brazil to stray offside. The advancement of the defensive line is something that needs to be done precisely. Moving the line down the field even as little as 2 meters would be like offering the opposition two or three goals.
Of course, there is a risk in moving the line up. However, this is the only way to defeat the top 15 national teams in the world. Challenging any of these powerhouses with a man-to-man formation would only let the more physically gifted of our opponents beat our defense and hammer us.
Morioka remained focused and put on a model performance. During the three weeks of the Confederations Cup and the 10-day Kirin Cup, he proved he was a “mighty leader.”
I was extremely happy to see Morioka’s star shine at last, especially because he had failed to meet my expectations for a long time. Morioka was one of the players that had caused a crack in the team during the Sydney Olympics, to some extent on purpose. This rift, which damaged the solidarity of the team, had not been resolved by the end of the Asian Cup.
I made Morioka the captain, but still I felt things were not going well. Some of the remarks he made to the media were also unpleasant for me. Tsuneyasu Miyamoto was the only player that could replace him, but he was injured and I had no other real choices. Morioka was no doubt a key player, but things were not working out. I was not happy.
I was at a loss as to whether I should keep Morioka on the national team. Prior to the Confederations Cup, I visited Morioka’s club, Shimizu S-Pulse, and spoke to his manager Zdravko Zemunovic.
“What do you think?” I asked Mr. Zemunovic, who observed the training camp in Shimizu for two days, watched the practice sessions, thought about them and talked with me.
The presence of his club manager may have put some pressure on Morioka. It is uncertain what happened in his head, but the effect soon showed. Morioka clearly started changing his attitude toward me. He tried to understand the problems and began showing an effort to solve them.
He had a stubborn character and didn’t easily accept what I required of him. We were like two rams full of pride and self-esteem glaring at each other. Morioka did not listen to what I said, and tried to measure his strength against me.
This warlike relationship deteriorated even more when I chose him to be captain of the team. By competing with me, he tried to make his teammates acknowledge his strength. Maybe he was unable to trust his own ability. Or maybe I am just making too much of it.
Things are different now. Morioka no longer sees it necessary to resist me to make his presence felt. He has found in himself the power to take care of things on the pitch. In the past, he had a tendency to play as he wished, but now he understands what I want of him and how I put my emphasis on the value of team unity.
Hiroshi Nanami, Shinji Ono, Shunsuke Nakamura and Naoki Matsuda were also former rebels. They were irritated with my personality and the way I did things, and they left. However, they made an effort to think about things and themselves, and in the end they came back, much stronger than before.
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