YOKOHAMA — Qatar manager Bruno Metsu has poured cold water over Japan’s ambition of reaching the World Cup semifinals, saying Takeshi Okada’s men “don’t know what to do” when the heat is on.
Japan eliminated Qatar from World Cup qualification with a 1-1 draw at Yokohama International Stadium on Wednesday night. But it was Metsu’s underdogs who looked the more threatening in a match billed as a triumphant homecoming for Japan days after securing its ticket to the finals with a win in Uzbekistan.
Okada has been relentless in expressing his belief that Japan can reach the final four of the World Cup, but Metsu, who led Senegal to the quarterfinals of the 2002 tournament, believes the 52-year-old’s optimism is misplaced.
“Japan’s technical level is good but they need to be more physical,” he said. “They need to strengthen the physical side of things, especially how to carry the game when they are under pressure.
“They still struggle to find solutions in those situations. They don’t know what to do, and this is something that has to be developed and practiced in the year before the World Cup.
“At the moment they’re not ready to reach the last four. I hope I’m wrong.”
Okada, who watched Wednesday’s game from the stands after picking up a one-match ban for a red card in Tashkent, brushed off Metsu’s assessment but acknowledged the need to pick his players’ morale up in time for next week’s final qualifier away to Australia.
“We’ve played a lot of games, and it’s true that in this game we couldn’t find the solutions, but we’ve shown in plenty of games before now that we can,” he said.
“It was a very frustrating game, but we have to keep that in mind and aim for a win in Australia. I’m going to have to think hard about motivation for the next game.
“I went in at halftime expecting to talk about some strategic things, but seeing the players, they had their heads hanging down. They didn’t have their normal vitality and they didn’t seem to be enjoying their football.
“This is the first time this has happened for a long time.”
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