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Okada, not Verbeek, gives off positive vibes

12 Feb 2009(Thu)

February 10, 2009: The mood of the two coaches on the eve of the Japan-Australia World Cup qualifier suggested a rather different picture to the one being painted in the previous days.

If anything, Takeshi Okada looked the more relaxed and confident of the two, whereas Pim Verbeek had appeared rather tetchy and guarded.

The Dutchman would not even admit Tim Cahill would be playing, never mind in which position, and gave a brusque "no comment" when asked about the form of Japan's backup keepers.

And for all his efforts to insist that the pressure was totally on Japan, he still gave the impression he was feeling the strain, too.

"Japan have to win and we would like to win. That is the difference," he said.

Which, of course, is not true. Japan do not have to win at all, as I have said before, and I think a draw would be a decent result for both teams to keep them ahead of the pack. The more he says it, the less convincing it sounds.

Verbeek's official press conference kicked off the proceedings at Nissan Stadium on Tuesday afternoon, and the open training session that followed suggested Cahill would be playing in an advanced position, either alongside Brett Holman or just off Josh Kennedy.

With Japan's recent defensive problems at set-pieces, you would think the 1.94-metre Kennedy would be a certain starter to try and unsettle the home defence.

The opening stages of the match appear set in stone -- Australia pumping long balls into the box for Kennedy to cause mayhem, and for Cahill to pick up the pieces; and Japan to counter with their speed, movement and passing, qualities that could unlock the Aussie defence down the middle and bring Mark Schwarzer into the game on a regular basis. Just who will feature in Japan's attack remains to be seen.

By holding his training sessions behind closed doors, Okada has managed to take the pressure off his own players and control the information provided to the media. Clearly his experience from 1997 and 1998 was coming into play, and he gave off positive vibes in his press conference without giving away any details.

In contrast, Verbeek appeared to be trying too hard to be calm and relaxed in his approach, and was not his usual animated self.

The Dutchman was feeling the pressure of the occasion, too, make no mistake. Whether his players do is an entirely different matter.

ends

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Hi! I'm a sports journalist in Romania. Is it possible I speak with Mr Jeremy Walker? Thanks a lot!

Posted by: Emanuel Rosu | 02/15/2009 07:17 am

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