W杯日本敗退 選手の奮闘に元気をもらった

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jul. 2, 2010)
Samurai Blue lost, but they gave so much
W杯日本敗退 選手の奮闘に元気をもらった(7月1日付・読売社説)

Japan has missed out on making the quarterfinals at the soccer World Cup in South Africa. Takeshi Okada's side fell one hurdle short of the last eight--a stage Japan has never reached at a World Cup. Despite this, the Samurai Blue displayed their skill and never-say-die attitude on soccer's grandest stage. We applaud the players' brave efforts.

In the first round of the knockout stage, Paraguay defeated Japan in a penalty shootout. Japan's campaign ended at the same stage as it did in the 2002 World Cup, when Japan and South Korea cohosted the event.

The Japanese players played with a steely determination. Japan did not give an inch to Paraguay, a team known for strong defense and rapid counterattacks. Defenders such as Yuji Nakazawa and Yuichi Komano were outstanding at keeping the Paraguayans at bay.

It was a down-to-the-wire defeat in a game that ended in a goalless draw after 120 minutes, including 30 minutes of extra time. Komano, who missed his penalty kick in the shootout, must feel extremely disappointed, but we hope he comes back to Japan with his head held high.


Confidence after each game

The Samurai Blue seemed to grow in confidence with each of the four matches they played in South Africa. Their teamwork and willingness to work for one another helped them knock over some of soccer's leading nations, and gave off an aura of reliability.

Okada's tactics successfully squeezed every drop of ability from his players.

We think the team made Japan's presence felt in the soccer world.

However, Japan's valiant efforts were still not quite enough. Okada said after the loss to Paraguay, "I think this tells you it's still not easy to advance further [at the World Cup]."

Japan's defensive organization proved effective at the World Cup, but the team's evident inability to score was their undoing. The players could not convert the few chances that came their way. A cure for this lack of killer instinct in front of goal will need to be found before the next World Cup rolls around in four years.

The entire nation was swept up in a wave of excitement whenever Japan played. The viewer rating peaked at 64.9 percent during the Japan-Paraguay game.

Many people must have enjoyed the sense of unity that comes from cheering for the national team with others, and been energized by the players. We felt once again the great power that sports can provide.


Hard work finally pays off

In the four years since being bundled out at the group stage in Germany in 2006, the Japan team failed to reach any great heights. Many people lost interest in a team they thought lacked "star" players. Vacant seats stood out at stadiums during international friendlies.

But as the Samurai Blue started to play well, the public began to get behind the team. Some players such as Keisuke Honda will now be known in soccer circles around the world after their sparkling World Cup performances.

Japan is bidding to host the World Cup in 2022. Japan's efforts in South Africa could boost sentiment in favor of this bid.

We hope the players will use their experiences in the World Cup to further hone their skills in the J.League and overseas to raise the overall level of Japanese soccer.

Let us set aside the dream of making the last eight in the World Cup--or even the semifinals as Okada had targeted this time--for four years.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 1, 2010)
(2010年7月1日02時09分 読売新聞)

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