TOKYO (March 30): After Japan's training session at Saitama Stadium 2002 on Tuesday, captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto confirmed what many had suspected...
That the players are running the team now, and not national coach Zico.
This is a very significant development in the reign of Zico, whose policies have left many people, including the players, scratching their heads in recent weeks and months.
Effectively, it means player-power has won the day, as Zico has been forced to abandon his clumsy 4-4-2 formation in favour of the more fluid 3-5-2 the players prefer.
This change followed a crisis meeting between Miyamoto, senior player Hidetoshi Nakata and Zico on Sunday, two days after the 2-1 defeat in Tehran.
Miyamoto said Tuesday night that Zico had not been surprised by the "suggestion," as the Brazilian was planning to revert to 3-5-2 in any case.
When asked if Zico or the players were running the team, Miyamoto responded by clearly saying: "The players are in charge."
This can mean one of two things.
The first is that the players have lost faith in the coach and have taken matters into their own hands, and this could spark the beginning of the end for Zico.
The other possibility is that Zico will now stick with the 3-5-2 formation, and finally forget about trying to play his own system, which was clearly not working. For Zico, the future is clear, because the players have pointed the way ahead.
Whatever the outcome, this development must be viewed as positive for all concerned.
Feelings are finally out in the open, and Zico must now adapt to this situation if he wants to keep his job.
The players, and fans, have shown remarkable patience, and Zico has been saved due to the fact that the team has scrambled vital victories throughout the World Cup qualifying process.
It has been clear for several months that the 3-5-2 system suits Japan's players better than the 4-4-2.
Even after Japan's very first game under Zico, a 1-1 draw with Jamaica, I said I thought his ideas, while noble, were not practical in the modern game.
After Japan's poor showing at the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup in France, where they beat a J2-level New Zealand before losing to a third-string French team and then to Colombia in a match they only needed to draw to advance to the semi-finals, I "suggested" that Zico had to switch to 3-5-2.
Just because Hidetoshi Nakata is available again does not mean Zico has to change formations.
Zico cannot complain, as he has had ample time to find a solution.
His lack of coaching credentials has been exposed, and the players have finally stepped in to try and sort out the mess and give the team a new united front. I think the benefits will be seen against Bahrain.
Somebody had to do it, and that clearly wasn't going to be Zico.