Japan not ready to be World Cup spectators

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 23, 2014 at 5:56 pm •  Published: June 23, 2014
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CUIABA, Brazil (AP) — Japan's players insisted Monday they will fight to the bitter end as long as they have a shred of a chance to advance to the knockout stages of the World Cup in Tuesday's final group stage game against Colombia.

"We're betting everything on this next match," Japan striker Shinji Okazaki told reporters. "We're going to give it everything we can."

To advance, Japan needs to defeat an impressive Colombia and hope that Greece can subdue Ivory Coast.

To fulfill its side of the bargain, Japan needs to do one thing: rediscover a killer instinct in front of goal. Japan had its fair share of chances in its 2-1 loss to Ivory Coast and an abundance of them in its 0-0 draw with Greece, but an inability to convert has left the Blue Samurai on the brink of elimination.

In the run-up to the World Cup, Japan under Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni honed a fluid attack to cure a history of ineptitude before the net. It was defense that was Japan's problem. In Brazil, the old habit of poor finishing has come back to haunt Japan.

Pressure has played its role.

"We can't be thinking too much, 'this is the World Cup,'" said Okazaki. "We just have to do what we've been doing up to now."

Veteran striker Yoshito Okubo, who fluffed a golden opportunity in Japan's match against Greece, said he'll go back to the basics in the next match.