As they undoubtedly prepare to come home, a few people will be asking, ‘What went wrong?‘ In a group where on paper they could get through, they finished bottom, didn’t win a game, and earned the distinction of conceding the most goals in the last seven minutes of a world cup game – that was Japan’s World Cup 2006?
They might have gone under the banner of the Samurai Blue (as far as I know, that colour is pure marketing), but their strikers were more like sleeping ninjas – we barely saw them. When they did get in front of goal they were hesitant or obsessed with passing, not seeming to want be the one who missed the shot.
In most games it was left to others, notably Hidetoshi Nakata to drive in shots from a distance, obviously in frustration at his team mates inability to even let loose an attempt on goal. That shouldn’t detract from Tamada’s goal against Brazil, which was a well taken opportunity, but was by far the exception – Nakamura’s goal against Australia was messy at best.
So what will change? Well Zico has left (thankfully) and now Japanese football has to assess where to go with their next manager. I’m hoping for one more like Troussier, than Zico.
Zico’s excuses post game and criticism of his own team didn’t seem to do anything to anything to make people feel better, or even like him, especially when his comments didn’t seem to gel with the opinions of his players, or with anyone who watched the game.
I’ll never forget Nakata and Zico’s completely different press interviews following the Croatia game; Zico claimed the evil TV companies made them play in 30+ degree heat (it’s that in Japan right now), whereas Nakata made the outrageous claim that Japan just didn’t play well enough.
The only good thing is that I wont have to listen to any more absurdly nationalistic NHK commentary by commentators who apparently don’t understand all the rules of football, or at least they need to re-read the rules about offside. The bad thing is that now Japan are out, coverage will drop, and I’ll be back to listening to Radio 5 Live, or pay for cable!
I would say Japan’s best player was again Hide Nakata, and though it pains me to say so, Kawaguchi played far better than I expected, but I would really like to see him learn to catch the ball.
However, for a more informed view of Japan’s 2006 performance, check out the FootallJapan Blog.