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Can it get any worse for Japan?

16 Feb 2010(Tue)

February 15, 2010: A miserable failure.

That’s the only way Japan’s campaign in the East Asian Football Championship can be regarded after their 3-1 defeat to South Korea on Sunday.

A 0-0 draw with China was a bad start, and even the 3-0 win over Hong Kong was unconvincing as Japan toiled to put the finishing touches to their undoubted superiority.

So one victory from three home games and a third-place finish in a tournament Japan was looking to win represents an unmitigated failure on the part of the hosts, and you wonder how they can regroup and find the confidence and spirit they will need before heading to South Africa in less than four months.

And no excuses, please, that there was no Shunsuke, no Hasebe, Honda, Matsui, Morimoto…Japan had enough experienced players in the likes of Endo and Kengo, Okubo and Tamada, to really step up and take charge of the game, but they could not rise to the occasion.

Korea’s second goal summed up the gloom in the Japan camp, as Lee Seung Yeoul’s shot struck the back of Nakazawa and flew over a stranded Narazaki and into the back of the net. When your luck is down, that’s the kind of goal that goes in.

Shortly after, the Koreans really rubbed it in when Tulio was dismissed in another penalty box scramble. Captain Kim Jung Woo made sure the referee did not miss his player lying on the floor, and the sight of another Korean player clenching his fists and celebrating when the red card came out was particularly distasteful. To celebrate a goal is one thing; to celebrate when an opponent is sent off smacks of a deliberate ploy to trap him. “Fair Play Please”….what a joke!

So maybe justice was served early in the second half when captain Kim followed Tulio down the tunnel for his late tackle on Okazaki, after his first-half caution for a foul on Okubo.

Japan needed to show a lot of character to get through this game, but they ended up well beaten 3-1 and ahead of only Hong Kong in the final rankings.

Can Japan get any worse in the coming weeks? I really can’t see a saviour or a change of fortune in these uncomfortable days for coach Okada.


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