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23/06/2010

We’ve done all we can: Okada

With Japan on the verge of qualifying for the Round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, coach Takeshi Okada on Wednesday said that he has done everything necessary ahead of Thursday’s final Group E game against Denmark in Rustenburg.

Japan are currently second in Group E ahead of Denmark on goal difference, and only need a draw to clinch their berth in the knock-out stages.
“Tomorrow’s game means a lot, not only to us, but also to Japanese football,” said Okada, following his side’s final tune-up session at Royal Bafoken Stadium. “The important thing will be to show all our abilities in the game, and by doing so qualify for the next round.”
Okada said he was not overly concerned about Japan’s height disadvantage to the Danes or his side’s lack of goals.
“Their height could be an advantage for them, but we can’t do much about it as we can’t suddenly get taller,” he pointed out. “Over the last two and a half years, we have worked on the things we need to do against teams that have physical strength and organizational skills. We’re just focusing on what we have to do in the game. Everything else is up to the gods.”
Japan midfielder Makoto Hasebe commented, “Tomorrow’s game is very important; it’s a life and death situation, so we must go for the win, not a draw.”
“Our team has a real strong point in our great solidarity. We have excellent back-up from our reserve players and our captain Yoshikatsu-san [Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi] has really done a lot in looking after the team.”
The Wolfsburg player added: “Reaching the next round would have a great impact on Japanese football and everyone involved with it, so we really want to make it happen.”
Danish coach Morten Olsen said that Japan’s performance in the tournament was not a surprise to him and that solidarity will be a key element to his side’s success.
“Before the World Cup, I said Japan could be one of the teams to make a good surprise,” Olsen said. “People know nothing about Asian football, but I have followed Japan’s game over the last few years. They played some good games and also lost a good game in preparation a year ago, 3-0 to Holland. But I think they were a better team in the first 70 minutes. It speaks of the quality of the team – and it really is a team.”
“We know that Japan have strong ambitions and they want to reach the semifinals. So, I think it will be a good match. For us, it’s a question of solidarity on the pitch, to be able to count on each other as a team. That is essential.”
However, Denmark have some player problems. Palermo defender Simon Kjaer is suspended, and injured midfielder Daniel Jensen is out of the Japan game, according to Olsen. Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner is also a doubt as he has a groin problem. Fiorentina defender Per Kroldrup is expected to replace Kjaer.
Olsen said, “I trust my team. But there are many factors that are important. Even if you have a good day, you can still lose. I hope we get a lucky punch tomorrow.”