JFA Website Special Top
JFA Website Special

   Making their third straight and fourth overall appearance at the FIFA Futsal World Cup, which started on November 1, Japan are facing tough opponents in their group – reigning world champions Brazil, European powerhouse Portugal and African champions Libya – but Futsal Japan coach Miguel Rodrigo is aiming to be aggressive and take the team from the Land of the Rising Sun to the second stage for the first time.
   The Spaniard has built his team around a mixture of experienced players and some younger ones. These include former Japan striker Miura “Kazu” Kazuyoshi, Kogure Kenichiro, Peruvian-born Morioka Kaoru and Henmi Rafael Katsutoshi. What does coach Rodrigo have in mind for the quadrennial tournament? Here are some of his thoughts going into the tournament.

Q: What are you particularly looking for with your group at the World Cup?
    What I am looking for is to play our aggressive attacking style through to the end of the tournament. In general, you tend to be defensive when you meet a strong team, but we'd like to overcome that kind of thinking and attack. I am hoping we can be a team with a strong mentality that can cross that border. For that, we are ready to show what we have worked on.

Q:  How do you overcome the mental difficulties that the Japan players may have?
   I have some ideas. Making a motivation video is one of them, and I am also trying to stimulate our players when we talk. This time, I asked all our players and staff members to write about their determination to succeed at the World Cup on a Japan flag, which I call the "Mental Contract," and we raise that flag at our training sessions and at games.

Q: To work on the team’s mental strength, you were trying to remove any fears from your players in the friendly against Brazil recently. How did that work?
   I think it worked well. Our players showed that in their game and I think we overcame our mental disadvantages. We had an even game against Brazil for the first 12 to 13 minutes in the first half, although we lost physically in the second half, probably because we had had tough training sessions before that game over the week. Our players played hard with courage.
   Having played a good game against Brazil, that can bring us hope, expectation and self-confidence. That is one of the pluses from that game. But if the players get too content and start to feel “we did well,” then that will affect them negatively. We shouldn’t get too satisfied with ourselves at this stage.

Q: You called up former Japan striker Kazu for your World Cup squad. What do you expect from him?
   I am hoping he can bring us scoring decisiveness, attacking ability and leadership, all of which have been missing from our game. I said earlier that he is the only one who can respond to a challenge like this, and he has convinced me that “only Kazu can do it” by learning quickly at every training session.
   Physically it might not be so easy as it gets closer to the end of the long J. League season. However, you shouldn't forget that you can make substitutions when you want in futsal. On top of that, Kazu is such an intelligent player. So, I am not worried at all. The more he plays the better he gets.

Q:What do you think of your opponents at the World Cup: Brazil, Portugal and Libya?
    I must say that the draw has made our challenge harder. However, we want to get through the group stage, which Japanese futsal hasn’t done before. After that, we’d like to go beyond and reach high a stage as possible. It is challenging for us as we have to get past Brazil and Portugal. But we have worked hard with our players to achieve this objective, and I have a faith in our players that we can do it.
    There is no easy game, that’s obvious. Brazil are as strong as Spain in the world, but the key won’t be there; it will be down to Portugal and Libya, and particularly how each country plays against Libya.
    Libya have strengthened their side under a good Spanish coach in the last two and a half years, and they play modern futsal, which is similar to our style to some extent.
    Our group knows what they have to do tactically and technically. We need the physical side to show that in the games, but I feel that we have already achieved a high standard tactically and technically.

Q: Futsal Japan have been drawing big attention from the public recently. What do you think about that?
    This is certainly a good opportunity for those who haven’t seen a futsal game to get to know that futsal is a fast and attractive game. At the same time, I am hoping that this will give people a chance to look at players’ development in advanced football countries. That is, in Brazil and Spain, where children play futsal and choose to play football or continue playing futsal when they get older. If Japanese people can get to know such a situation and do likewise, I am hoping the situation here in developing younger players in particular will change.

Text by Kinohara Kumi, sports journalist