Sunday, July 8, 2007

Japan under the weather ahead of opening match

Asian Cup 2007.
The heat is on Japan to win their third-straight title at the Asian Cup this July in Southeast Asia.
After being welcomed to Hanoi by a typhoon shortly after arrival on Wednesday, the mercury has shot up and the heat and humidity are taking its toll on a team already suffering from fatigue.
The 34-plus-degree weather and air so dense you could stand a fork in it is something all teams here have to deal with, but with most of its players fresh off their last league match - the J.League broke for the continental championship on June 30 - Japan is in visibly rough shape.
And coach Ivica Osim wants everyone to know it.
“My players just finished league games. They’ve come off months in which they’ve played two games a week, so yes, that will have an impact on their condition.
“If I told you the players were out of shape it would be an insult to J.League coaches. If you think I can whip them into shape after only three days’ training, it’s an insult to me.”
The team arrived on Wednesday and trained Thursday despite a torrential downpour supplied by Typhoon Toraji. Osim said they had no other choice but to hit the soggy pitch with the clock running down to their opening match against Qatar on Monday night.
Conditions were slightly better on Saturday with a pleasant breeze filtering through My Dinh Stadium, where Japan staged a brief workout.
Afterward, the players said they were coping with the weather but certainly not enjoying it.
“It wasn’t as hot today as it was yesterday because of the breeze and I think we all trained better as a result,” said defender Yuichi Komano.
Scottish Premier League MVP Shunsuke Nakamura added that Japan would “be OK in the heat as long as we play at our own pace.”
National team goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi was far more blunt: "It's kind of cruel to ask us to play in this kind of heat without much preparation."

* * *
Japan trained Saturday with a mock starting XI featuring only one striker, Naohiro Takahara. The rest of the squad follows:

Satoru Yamagishi, Shunsuke Nakamura, Kengo Nakamura, Keita Suzuki, Akira Kaji, Yasuhito Endo, Yuichi Komano, Yuki Abe, Yuji Nakazawa, Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi.

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