Japan coach Agurrie: No world-class playing surface, no problem
JAPAN v BRAZIL
(Tonight, 6.45pm, StarHub TV Ch 112/205 & 76.25MHz)
No world-class playing surface, no problem.
Japan coach Javier Aguirre was full of fighting talk yesterday, vowing his side would go all out to shock record five-time world champions Brazil in their glamour international friendly at the National Stadium tonight.
Sure, the Blue Samurai's record against the Samba Stars from South America - eight defeats and two draws in 10 games - isn't much to shout about.
But, addressing the media after Japan's training session yesterday, the feisty Aguirre reckons his side can pull off an upset, if they can stay compact and take their chances.
And while his opposite number Dunga fretted over the much-publicised state of the pitch at the Sports Hub, fearing the risk of injuries to his superstars, the Mexican was sympathetic.
Said Aguirre: "I understand the Singapore (authorities) are trying their best effort to have the pitch in best condition, but I honestly think it will take more time before it is in perfect condition."
The 55-year-old admitted that the pitch was "a little bit sandy" and it might be difficult for his players to show their best, but still demanded to see his team show they have the cojones to go up against the most famous side in international football.
Since taking over from Italian Alberto Zaccheroni following Japan's flop at June's World Cup, Aguirre has led the Asian giants against Uruguay (lost 2-0), Venezuela (2-2) and Jamaica (won 1-0).
He is relishing the challenge Neymar and Co will pose tonight.
"This is exactly what I wanted - a difficult situation," said Aguirre, whose first major assignment will be January's Asian Cup in Australia.
"We have no home games at the Asian Cup, and I also wanted us to fight against a team that would be really difficult to beat."
When reminded of Japan's poor record against Brazil, the coach shot back: "I (led Mexico) against Brazil in the Copa America (in 2001), and we won.
"Tomorrow's game will be very tough and maybe they will keep the ball longer than us.
"There are many high-quality players in the Brazil team, so we might have only a few chances, but we have to take them.
"We want to have a solid defence. And we also want luck with us, too."
A Japanese journalist suggested the Japanese players lacked passion in their three friendly matches.
Aguirre, who was otherwise relaxed throughout the half-an-hour-long press conference, bristled.
"I don't agree at all," he said, frowning. "If you say we didn't play well, maybe we could argue that. But whether we had passion? I don't agree.
"Tomorrow's game will be very tough but I'm sure we will play with determination. Don't you worry about that."
Passion is certainly one thing you cannot accuse Aguirre of not having.
While in charge of Mexico at the 2009 Gold Cup, he was infamously sent off for kicking Panama player Ricardo Phillips from his technical area.
He was banned three games and the Mexican FA was fined US$25,000 ($32,000), and later apologised for his actions.
That didn't stop Mexico from coming out tops in the tournament.
Now, Aguirre wants his Japan team to rediscover that winning feeling.
When asked if he had enough preparation time to guide Japan to their fifth Asian Cup win in seven tournaments in January, he leaned back in his chair and smiled.
"We have managed to set six games on Fifa dates before the Asian Cup, to find our 23 players," he said.
"I've found so many good talents in the J-League, and we have more than 20 players (playing) overseas, so we have an abundance of talent. There is enough time."
If his players strut out at the National Stadium tonight with the same confidence, they could well give Brazil a run for their money.