JEF United Chiba manager Ivica Osim paid tribute to his players after Saturday’s 5-4 penalty shootout win over Gamba Osaka in the Nabisco Cup final but sought to play down the significance of winning the Japanese league cup.
With Osim unable to bear watching all of the shootout, Japan striker Seiichiro Maki, who had a goal ruled out in the dying embers of normal time, converted the decisive penalty to give JEF its first trophy since the launch of the J. League in 1993.
“All the players I asked to take the penalties took responsibility,” said Osim who suffered the disappointment of losing on penalties to Argentina in the 1990 World Cup quarterfinals when he was head coach of Yugoslavia.
“At the World Cup most of my players did not want to take penalties. There is always luck involved, but it takes a team with nerves of steel to win in a penalty shootout, and that is very important for us.”
While Osim was quick to lavish praise on his players, he placed little importance on Saturday’s victory, pointing out that, unlike teams in Europe that qualify for the UEFA Cup by winning the league cup, JEF has no such lofty goals to work toward.
“Until I came to Japan I had no idea what the Nabisco Cup was, and I would actually like you to explain the importance of this tournament to me,” said the 64-year-old, who has hinted that this season could be his last with the club.
“Teams that win domestic cups in Europe qualify for the UEFA Cup. But that is not the case with the Nabisco Cup, all you get is money. What’s the point?
“If there was some kind of international plan, something more at stake, it would be a different story. It would be good if the Nabisco Cup winners could play in Europe, but even then geographical distance would make it hard. The only way around that would be to have quicker planes,” he quipped.
The J. League title, however, would guarantee JEF a place in the Asian Champions League, from which the winner advances to the lucrative Club World Championship.
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