W杯ベスト16 組織力生かしさらに上位を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jun. 27, 2010)
Teamwork is Japan's World Cup weapon
W杯ベスト16 組織力生かしさらに上位を(6月26日付・読売社説)

Japan's national soccer team has qualified for the knockout phase of the greatest international event in its sport. We applaud the excellent performance of the team.

Defeating Denmark 3-1 in the first round of the soccer World Cup finals in South Africa, Japan has advanced to the top 16. This is our country's second time to qualify for the second round, following the 2002 World Cup finals jointly hosted by Japan and South Korea.

In the first half of the game with Denmark, Keisuke Honda and Yasuhito Endo each scored with superb free kicks. Shinji Okazaki also netted a decisive goal in the second half.


Players made us proud

Seeing the Japanese players throw everything into defending against the Danes' fierce attacks, we were impressed with the national team's display of never-say-die spirit. As coach Takeshi Okada said, "I'm proud of these wonderful players."

The Danes' imposing physical stature and abilities seemed to put the Japanese at a disadvantage, but each player on the team fulfilled his particular role. Japan's victorious accession to the top 16 therefore should be attributed to its teamwork.

Japan's next game is with Paraguay on Tuesday. It surely will be a tough match, but we hope the team will exert all its strength to achieve a place in the top eight for the first time in history.

Expectations for the Japan team were not so high before the current World Cup finals kicked off, but after it beat Cameroon in its first game, public interest suddenly soared.

The average rating for the live broadcast of the Denmark game from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. Friday was 30.5 percent of households with televisions in the Kanto region, with the highest rating reaching 41.3 percent. These are surprising figures given the early-morning time slot.

The second round is a knockout phase--losing just one game will eliminate a team. The voltage of excitement among fans is therefore certain to be crackling at an even higher level.


Asian teams ascendant

South Korea also has qualified to play in the top-16 second round. Unless teams from Asia perform well, the number of spots for the region may be reduced in the next World Cup finals. In this sense, too, it is good news that both Japan and South Korea have advanced to the second round.

Two unexpected developments were the exits of Italy and France, the champion and the runner-up, respectively, in the previous World Cup finals in 2006. Other leading European teams also have had tough games.

Many players on South American, African and Asian teams have played in the European leagues. These players improved their skills in Europe and now are threatening European teams in the World Cup.

South American teams, such as Brazil and Argentina, have so far performed well. Having seen the excellent individual skills of players on these teams, which the Japan players lack, we are impressed with the differences in playing styles.

With half of the 32 original teams eliminated, the best part of the World Cup finals now begins. We are even more excited to watch the fierce battles that will be fought to reach the world's top place.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 26, 2010)
(2010年6月26日01時08分 読売新聞)

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