Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Catcalls continue for embattled Okada

Catcalls continue for embattled Okada.
If Japan coach Takeshi Okada wanted a tough run out for his players at the fourth East Asian championships in Tokyo, he's got it.

As the jeers rained down on the Samurai Blue from all quarters of Ajinomoto Stadium following their scoreless draw with China last Saturday, Okada could have been forgiven for cracking a wry smile.

Japan's friendly schedule in the build-up to the 2010 World Cup finals has been blasted by those who claim that a lack of genuinely competitive fixtures continues to hamper the national team.

However, there's no lack of competition at the four-team East Asian championships - although the hosts will be expected to hammer Hong Kong at the National Stadium on Thursday.

Shorn of their overseas stars - coach Okada selected an entirely local-based squad for the tournament - last weekend Japan found themselves unable to breach Yang Zhi's goal in front of a partisan Tokyo crowd.

Things would have been even worse had veteran goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki not saved Yang Hao's weak penalty attempt with eight minutes remaining.

The 0-0 stalemate was the second in a matter of days, after Japan turned in an insipid display in a scoreless draw with Venezuela in friendly in Oita on February 2.

Now the Samurai Blue turn their attentions to a Hong Kong side that was thrashed 5-0 by Korea Republic in their opening match, with coach Okada no doubt hoping that his strikers can rediscover their goal scoring form against the South-East Asian minnows.

Despite claiming that his team are capable of reaching the semi-finals in South Africa, Okada remains a largely unloved figure in his home country.

His blustering predictions belie frustratingly cautious tactics that have left fans despairing for a consistent goal scorer who can finish off Japan's often intricate build-up play.

Unless Okada unveils a regular goal scorer, Japan could be on the first plane home from South Africa rather than troubling the big guns in the knock-out stage.

The clash with Hong Kong represents the first step in rehabilitating Okada's fading image, however a much tougher test awaits.

On Sunday the hosts meet arch-rivals Korea Republic in a Valentine's Day blockbuster, and more catcalls await should Japan fail to win - and win convincingly - against their bitter East Asian foes.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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