Exporting talent achieves the success of the Japan national football team in the World Cup

Exporting talent achieves the success of the Japan national football team in the World Cup

When Hajime Moriyasu thought of Qatar, the shock of October 28, 1993 kept coming to mind. At the time, Japan was just a few minutes away from qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in history. But things turned sour in the decisive qualifier against Iraq on Qatari soil. Moriyasu was stunned when Iraqi Jaafar Imran hit the goal in stoppage time: 2-2. Japan’s World Cup dream is gone.

Moriyasu returned to Qatar after 29 years. As the national coach of Japan. This time Doha is fully prepared towards the Japanese. The blue samurai She, after the victories over Germany (2-1) and Spain (2-1), is the reveal of the World Cup at the moment. The fact that the team lost to Costa Rica (1-0) in the second group match indicates Japan’s ups and downs. The Asians play against Croatia on Monday at four o’clock in the evening, Dutch time, and hope to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in their seventh participation in the World Cup.

Japan is still a novice in international football. Baseball, wrestling and sumo are traditionally the biggest sports in the country. In 1980, Japan took an important step in promoting the sport by bringing the competition for the Club World Cup to Tokyo. The best football teams in Europe and South America competed there every year, until 2001, for this top prize. PSV lost the final to the Japanese public in 1988 against Nacional from Uruguay, and Ajax won the cup in 1995 – with Louis van Gaal as coach – against Brazilian Gremio.

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National coach Hans Aoft

The Japanese wanted to admire two star-studded teams more than once a year during the World Cup final. Dutchman Hans Offt became Japan’s first foreign coach in 1992 and achieved success by immediately winning the Asian Championship. It was Japan’s first major title. This gave Japanese football, as the Japan Professional League was introduced the same year, a massive boost on the way to qualification for the 1994 World Cup. But after the disappointment in Qatar, Offt was fired.

Four years later, Japan made its first appearance at the 1998 World Cup. They had no say in the final round in France. Japan came home with zero points from three matches and managed to prepare for the 2002 World Cup, which it will organize together with South Korea. The Japanese national team was largely trained in their country, with only four international players playing for European clubs at the time. One of them was Hidetoshi Nakata, the “Japanese Beckham”, who played for Parma in Italy. Such a big star is not currently in the Japanese selection.

The big difference is that eighteen of the 26 international players now play in Europe, eight of them in Germany. The heart of the defense, Takehiro Tomiyasu, signs with the captain of the English club Arsenal. It is no coincidence. Japan is capitalizing on a policy that began thirty years ago to become an exporter of football talent as well as boost its own competition.

Premier League of Asia

The J-League has slowly but steadily expanded in recent decades from a single division of ten clubs to a professional pyramid of sixty clubs divided into three tiers. Now the J.League is seen as the “Super League of Asia”, with matches attracting an average of 20,000 spectators and being broadcast across large parts of the continent.

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At the same time, Japan has invested in training coaches – current national coach Moriyasu is a product of this – and training young players. Japanese soccer officials have toured European clubs to find out how to develop their talents. The Japanese system is adapted for this.

Japan’s national coach Hajime Moriyasu.
Photo by Eugene Hoshiko/AP

said Terry Westley, former director of West Ham United’s youth academy and now technical director of the J-League the athlete What it means: More focus on individual development through tailored training programs, and less focus on team performance. But also: allowing talent to move into the first team more quickly. In Japan, age traditionally largely determines a player’s status. That has changed, according to Westley. If two footballers are equally good, the younger one plays.

young people to Europe

Andres Iniesta, the star of the Spanish club Vissel Kobe, sees many Japanese talents advancing. “They are dynamic, talented and physically strong,” he told the BBC. And cheap. That is why these days they often leave for Europe at a young age. While moving abroad early is often seen as unfortunate in the Netherlands, in Japan that is the goal. In Europe they are getting better, that’s the logic, and the national team is benefiting from that.

“Four of the starting line-up play in the Bundesliga and two in the English Premier League,” said coach Moriyasu after the match’s victory over Germany. “So they are fighting in tough competitions. It made them stronger. I am very grateful to those competitions for that.”

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Moriyasu had a completely different feeling in Qatar in two weeks. However, the drama of the 1993 final stage against Spain, in which it almost went wrong, haunted his mind for a while. “But times have changed,” the national coach said afterwards. “These players are part of a new era in Japanese football.”

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