Tulio rallies troops

SAAS-FEE, Switzerland (Kyodo) Marcus Tulio Tanaka has vowed to take the heat off national team coach Takeshi Okada and told Japan it is time to go to war.

The Brazilian-born central defender looks set to make his comeback and start against England in Japan’s penultimate World Cup warmup in Austria on Sunday after missing the last two matches against Serbia and South Korea because of suspension and injury.

Tulio appears to have recovered from a right hamstring strain that kept him out of Monday’s 2-0 defeat to the South Koreans in Saitama and took full part in Thursday’s morning training session in cold, wet and windy conditions at the team’s camp in the Swiss Alps.

“I was very disappointed to miss the South Korea game because I couldn’t help my mates out. I have managed to get myself back in condition and rejoined the group and I intend to play against England,” Tulio told reporters.

Okada is feeling the heat after a series of below-par performances and a bizarre about-turn that followed his offer to resign in the aftermath of Monday’s defeat.

But Tulio said, “I have no doubts (about Okada). Okada-san has picked me and we have our pride as players. It is all too easy to blame the coach and it is not his fault.

“There is no room for niceties. We have to treat this like a war. It is not a case of retaliating if you take the first punch, you have got to get in there and land the first blow,” said Tulio.

“Obviously Japan are one of the weaker teams among the 32 nations at the World Cup and we have to understand that and double our efforts.”

While Tulio’s return gave Japan a welcome lift, playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura, who is carrying a knock to his left ankle, remains a concern.

“He is not at his best but hopefully his condition will improve,” said Okada before snapping “I don’t know, I don’t know,” when pressed by reporters over whether he would be fit to face England.

Japan wraps up its preparations before heading for South Africa with a friendly against Cote d’Ivoire on June 4 in Sion, Switzerland.