Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Japan Coach Planning for Semifinals

You don't expect coaches of even the most modest World Cup qualifiers to poor-mouth their teams.

No team goes to the World Cup planning and expecting to go three-and-out after group play. No one says, "Hey, we're Honduras! No way we advance!" You just don't say that. Even if you know it to be the likely scenario.

But talking about getting to the semifinals, when you coach Japan ... talking about how the semifinals is your goal ... is just plain wacky.

Either coach Takeshi Okada is massively deluded ... or he's got some sort of career deathwish by setting the bar his team way, way too high.

Let's hear from the coach:

"All of our opponents are a bit stronger than us but are in a range we can deal with." Okada said. "We are aiming for a place in the semifinals and don't intend to change that."

"It's never easy whoever you play. This might sound strange but I don't think it's a bad group to be in. We are not up against teams that we have absolutely no chance of beating."

Japan, remember, is in the same group with Netherlands, Denmark and Cameroon. The average fan would say "Japan finishes last there."

Japan is one of those teams (and every World Cup has 15-20 of them) who have no chance, none, of winning the championship.

Japan has been out of the first round only once, when they were playing at home in 2002. The Japanese play hard, and the team is well-organized, but it has very thin talent, and unless it gets a batch of Brazilians naturalized in the next few months (and maybe Okada knows something we don't) ... there's no way they get out of that group and win two games in the knockout round.

Anyway, weird prediction. Nobody should talk about the World Cup semifinals in South Africa this year unless they are named Brazil, Spain, Italy, Germany, Netherlands and (maybe) England.

Everyone else, most certainly including Japan, should talk about playing hard, getting out of the first round and maybe winning a knockout game. But semifinals? No. Don't set yourself up in a scenario that isn't going to happen.
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