No need to panic, says Miyamoto


Captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto on Sunday said Japan has put its nightmare defeats at the Kirin Cup behind it and insists there is no cause for alarm as the Asian champion prepares for two crucial upcoming qualifiers for the 2006 World Cup.

Japan suffered shock 1-0 home defeats to a second-string Peru and the United Arab Emirates in two build-up friendlies for Friday’s Group B game in Manama and the controversial clash against North Korea behind closed doors in Bangkok on June 8.

Japan controlled possession for much of both matches in the annual three-team Kirin Cup tournament but was stung twice on the break and its first back-to-back losses in almost two years have cranked up the pressure on coach Zico.

“Sure, we have lost two friendly matches, there is no getting away from that fact,” said Miyamoto after Japan began its final tuneup for the Bahrain clash at a training camp in Abu Dhabi.

“But that doesn’t mean that we are about to crumble after all the hard work we have put in over the last three years or so,” he said. “We may have been beaten but there is no need to be too concerned.”

Japan was left wanting in the final third of the pitch in the Kirin Cup matches and Zico had warned his team not to make the same mistake twice after a goal on the counter-attack gave Peru victory deep into stoppage time in Niigata on May 22.

But Urawa Reds defender Keisuke Tsuboi, in for injured Yuji Nakazawa, was caught short again against the run of play as Japan succumbed in almost identical fashion against the UAE on Friday.

The good news for Zico is that Nakazawa, who has been suffering from knee and lower-back problems, hinted he is ready to return to the fold after the team underwent a 90-minute session in sweltering heat shortly after touching down in the Persian Gulf state.

The JFA said Italian-based midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata will join the squad along with Reggina’s Shunsuke Nakamura and Messina striker Atsushi Yanagisawa on Monday.