Japan coach Takeshi Okada reacted calmly to his nation’s World Cup draw, after the Samurai Blue were drawn in Group E alongside the Netherlands, Denmark and Cameroon.
Having claimed that Japan are aiming for a Judi Onlain semi-finals berth in South Africa, the Asian powerhouses must first negotiate a tough group that includes Bert van Marwijk’s highly-fancied Dutch side.
The Netherlands beat Japan 3-0 when the two sides met in a friendly in Enschede in September, and Okada’s men will need to find a way of dealing with not one, but two European opponents in South Africa.
Denmark will likewise provide a stern test for the Japanese, while Cameroon will be eager to impress on African soil.
Despite the tough draw, Okada was optimistic about his side’s chances of progressing.
However, former Japan coach Ivica Osim had a warning for his successor, telling reporters in Tokyo on the eve of the draw, “the bigger the expectations, the bigger the disappointment.”
Japan’s first match is against Cameroon on June 14 in Bloemfontein, before they take on the Netherlands in Durban on June 19 and end their group stage campaign against Denmark in Rustenburg on June 24.
Final day showdown in epic J. League race
At approximately 5.20pm on a chilly Saturday afternoon, the 2009 J. League champions will thrust their glittering trophy into wintry Japanese skies.
Whether it is two-time defending champions Kashima Antlers left celebrating, or the trophy-hungry Kawasaki Frontale, is the question still to be resolved.
Kashima hold the upper hand after Oswaldo de Oliveira’s side obliterated the only other title contender Gamba Osaka last weekend, as the Antlers ran riot in a 5-1 home victory.
Kawasaki kept alive their hopes of claiming a first ever …