For Japan, attack is the key to World Cup revival

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 15, 2014 at 5:45 pm •  Published: June 15, 2014
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ITU, Brazil (AP) — Shinji Kagawa had a tormented, sleepless night after Japan was beaten by Ivory Coast under a torrential Brazilian downpour.

He knows now that there's only one way to get back into the World Cup: Attack.

"We just have to go for it," the Manchester United star said Monday after a practice session.

As he greeted reporters at the team's base camp in Itu, Kagawa admitted with a sheepish grin: "Didn't sleep last night ... The next match was on my mind but it was really yesterday that weighed. I was miserable to my heart's content. But just need to snap out of that ... and go for the win."

Under Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni, Japan has chiseled a style based on relentless pressure and precision play-making to force opponents onto the defensive. Aside from a moment of first-half brilliance — in which the Europe-based star trio of Kagawa, Yuto Nagatomo and Keisuke Honda clicked to choreograph a classic Honda strike — there was little of that to be seen in Japan's 2-1 defeat Sunday to Ivory Coast.

Japan appeared to be spooked by the power and pace of "Les Elephants," hesitant to go all out for goal as they have done so many times in the past.

To be sure, Japan's trademark attacking style has often left them vulnerable in defense. But as they strive to regroup, there's agreement in the Japan camp that the only way forward is to abandon fear.