Japan coach backs Nakamura, aims at WC semis
Japan manager Takeshi Okada has backed midfield playmaker Shunsuke
Nakamura to regain form and help the national team meet its goal of
reaching the 2010 World Cup semifinals.
Japan has a difficult draw for the World Cup, facing tough first-round opponents in the Netherlands, Cameroon and Denmark, yet Okada has set the lofty goal of a position in the final four.
Nakamura, the most renowned of Japanese players after his spells in Italy and with Celtic in Scotland, had struggled since switching to Spanish side Espanyol this season. He is yet to score in ten appearances.
"He (Nakamura) made this decision before the World Cup to go to Spain and there was a certain amount of risk involved," Okada said Thursday.
"However, when I consider his decision I actually admire him deeply for it. He will not take the easy option; he will always try to find the more challenging choice."
Okada, who also coached Japan in the 1998 tournament, praised the level of African teams, saying that while they aren't quite at level of top contenders Spain and Brazil, " they definitely have potential to aim at being No. 1 in the world."