The Japan men’s Olympic soccer team left for Brazil on Thursday, with coach Makoto Teguramori saying the young Samurai Blue will go all in for their first match against Nigeria.
“We’ll be at our peak for the first game,” Teguramori said at Haneda airport, referring to the Aug. 4 Group B match in Manaus. “That game will make or break our medal chances.”
Teguramori’s side will launch the Rio Olympic campaign for the entire Japan delegation against Nigeria, followed by a game versus Colombia three days later, and then another against Sweden to close out the first round on Aug. 10.
Japan warms up for the Nigeria game with a friendly versus Brazil on July 30. Teguramori’s squad is trying to win the nation’s first medal in men’s soccer since the team took home the bronze from the 1968 Mexico City Games.
In London four years ago, Japan came close, reaching the bronze-medal match (a 2-0 loss to South Korea).
During the Rio Games, where Japan will be playing every three days, Teguramori and his coaching staff will focus on keeping the troops as fresh as possible.
And Manaus, located deep in the Amazon rainforest, is hot even during the Brazilian winter, with temperatures topping 30 C at night, the humidity exceeding 70 percent.
Teguramori has no illusions about the tall order his group faces.
“The mission we’ve taken on is a huge one,” he said. “Hopefully we can bring back a medal to add a new chapter in (Japanese soccer) history.”