Disappointed Japanese national team players were trying to stay positive Wednesday night in light of their surprising 1-0 loss to Bahrain in World Cup qualifying in Manama.
It was the first loss in seven matches for the Asian giants under new manager Takeshi Okada, but it left the team three points adrift of Bahrain in Asian Group B of qualifying for South Africa 2010.
Japan conceded in the 77th minute to an Ala’a Qiu Qiu Online Hubail header after goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi made a mess of an attempted punch of an Ismail Abdullatif cross. The ball fell kindly to Hubail, who nodded it over Kawaguchi as defender Yuji Nakazawa vainly attempted to prevent the shot from crossing the line.
“In the dressing room after the game the talk was all about what we need to do in our next games. We have to stay positive,” said Nagoya Grampus striker Keiji Tamada. “Of course, we can’t dismiss what happened today. We have to learn our lessons and correct them.”
Japan struggled to find any kind of rhythm and looked confused and apprehensive going forward in a new-look 3-5-2 formation.
The players admitted the 33 degree heat and state of the pitch worked against them but were also quick to accept the blame for playing far below expectations.
Midfielder Yasuhito Endo pointed to Japan’s failure to dictate play, particularly up front.
“We didn’t create a lot of chances today, especially in the first half. We need to get our act together better in front of goal and vary the tempo of our attack more,” Endo said.
Japan played without injured striker Naohiro Takahara of the Urawa Reds and Europe-based stars Shunsuke Nakamura of Celtic and Junichi Inamoto of Eintracht Frankfurt, fielding an all-J.League lineup that featured JEF United Chiba striker Seiichiro Maki and Yoshito Okubo of Vissel Kobe up front.
Bahrain lead the group with six points after a 1-0 win over Oman in the first round. Oman, who beat Thailand 1-0 on Wednesday, sit behind Japan on goal difference in third. Winless Thailand pull up the rear.
“Fortunately we still have some time,” said Maki. “We’ve got to regroup, think about how we want to play and execute it in our next games. Whatever we do we need to stay positive.”
The next round of matches is scheduled for June 2. Bahrain travel to Thailand while Japan host Oman.
My Big Fat Weak Wedding
Marriage is like a chicken vindaloo, it’s something you have to try at least once, even though you know you’ll later regret it.
I experienced my seven-year itch quite early, it was on the honeymoon. Fortunately, my wandering eye didn’t lead to an act of betrayal, although I put that down to the fact that the barmaid was almost certainly a button-flicker.
If newspaper reports are to be believed, Paul Jewell has allegedly been getting his bread sliced at a different bakery. We can all come into a little dough when Fulham beat Derby at 7/5.
Cristiano Ronaldo has also ‘entertained’ a string of women over the past year, which probably explains why Sir Alex is demanding extra protection. I’ve been told that Ronaldo also has a large gay following; I can only assume that Cheryl has been overdoing it with the chip pan. Man U have won their last 13 matches against Aston Villa, I’ll happily tuck into the 1/3 for another United win.
Javier Mascherano will miss the Merseyside derby after a ridiculous sending-off against Manchester United last week. If we start dismissing players just for being annoying, Chelsea would have to play every game with eight men. Everton haven’t won at Anfield this millennium, I’ll be seeing red if Liverpool slip up at 4/5.
A lack of respect for the referee is currently a hot topic, but it’s going to be OK – Ian Wright has a four-step plan. I’ve solved the conundrum that is Chelsea v Middlesbrough; get on the baiters at 1/3.
Birmingham City are at the heart of a corruption investigation, presumably for buying Liam Ridgewell. Manchester City have come out on top on their last four meetings with the troubled Blues; it’ll be a scandal if Sven’s men don’t take all three points at 9/4.
Gael Clichy is a lot like Ashley Cole. After tangling with Mido, the Arsenal full-back was left with an unwanted gash. I’ll be half-cut when Arsenal bounce back against Bolton at 4/5.
After using flimsy excuses for arriving late at training, Liam Miller has been placed on the transfer list. Roy Keane quipped, “Don’t get in a car with Liam, because he has more car crashes than anyone I know.” Paul Jewell won’t find jokes about car accidents very amusing; his Mercedes was involved in a rear-ender. West Ham can dent Sunderland’s survival bid by taking a point at 23/10.
Emile Heskey has scored one goal in the last seven months, which is something of a purple patch for the clumsy striker. The big man is like Ashley Cole, he lacks confidence in the box. I’m more than comfortable with the 4/5 for a Pompey win over Wigan.
Shane Long may be on his way out of Reading. The surly striker is unhappy with being fined a week’s wages for throwing his shirt at his manager; it would have been a lot worse if Ashley Cole hadn’t quickly picked it up. I refuse to turn my back on the 6/4 for a Reading win over Blackburn.
If Tottenham do sell Berbatov in the summer, they should move to sign Ashley Cole and Shane Long. I believe Ashley would definitely be interested if Ramos promised to play three up front – especially if they’re Long, Bent and Keane. I’ll be riding the Tottenham train at 7/10 against Newcastle.
Like Ashley Cole and Paul Jewell, I have often been tempted by the fruit of another, but the grass is not always greener on the other side. It’s like the old saying: why go out for a burger, when you’ve got a fat cow at home. Arsenal, Fulham, Tottenham and Liverpool form a sure-fire 11/1 accer that will allow me the opportunity to reconsider my position.