19
Jun
10

Preview of Japan v. Holland

A healthy body is associated with a healthy mind. In order to achieve our goals it is important to pay more attention to our inner-value.

These words are, of course, not my original thoughts; I am far from capable of forming such insightful comment, especially after just an hour-and-a-half of sleep.

They are instead the wise observations of the Dalai Lama, whose press conference I had the pleasure of attending this morning. (I hope that my sleep deprivation gave me the appearance of a man who had achieved a state of zen-like focus, rather than that of a fool who had sat up all night for the minute-by-minutes of England 0-0 Algeria.)

As Japan head into their second game of the World Cup this evening, the above struck me as rather apt. Before the tournament began the players and coaches couldn’t catch a break. Each poor performance and result was roundly criticised, morale dropped as a result, bringing about another poor performance and result, and it seemed like the team was there for the taking in Group E.

After the Cameroon game that has all changed though. The squad is rejuvenated and a sense of vigour, purpose and, most importantly, confidence is emanating out of the camp ahead of the difficult encounter with Holland. Talk is not just of eking out a point though, and there seems to be a certain amount of belief among the players that they could take all of the spoils in Durban. This would have been unimaginable just one week ago when the Samurai Blue were caught in the midst of a run of four defeats and a training ground draw with Zimbabwe and, while it is important not to get carried away, this new assuredness could be vital in gaining something from tonight’s match – even if it is just a point (and let’s face it, what a terrific just that would be).

The psychological aspects and pressure of top-level football are starting to be taken a lot more seriously and, as France, Spain, England, Italy and Germany can attest to, being a European superpower is no longer enough to ensure victory over a supposedly ‘lesser’ footballing nation.

If Japan can harness this spirit in the right way and maintain their momentum against the Dutch then they could be sitting very pretty going into the final game against Denmark on Thursday.  Of course, they must make sure they do not become over-confident and will want to avoid the same fate as South Korea who, after achieving victory in their opening match, were slain with some aplomb by Argentina on Thursday.

It should also be remembered that a loss tonight does not spell the end for Japan. If they are defeated it is important that they keep everything in perspective and stay strong mentally ahead of the possible make-or-break game with the Danes.

And what are the Dalai Lama’s thoughts on the World Cup?

“I have no interest in sports. I have been to watch cricket a few times and there are always thousands of people there but I have no idea what is going on or who is winning or losing. When I was young I played badminton and ping-pong a few times though.”

Oh. How’s that for an anticlimax? Let’s hope that the end product is more positive for Japan tonight eh?


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