History repeated itself for Portugal and Japan on Thursday. Just as they did at the inaugural FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Rio de Janeiro in 2005, the two sides squared off on the first day of competition at Portugal 2015, with the Portuguese emerging victorious once again.
A survivor of that meeting a decade ago, Shinji Makino is hoping Japan can recover from yesterday’s 4-2 defeat in the same way that they did all those years ago on the Copacabana and make it through to the latter stages. The Japanese bounced back in style from that 4-0 loss to Portugal at Rio 2005, beating USA to advance to the last eight, where they took another step forward in disposing of Uruguay. Though their run came to an end against France in the semis, Japan rightly have happy memories of their fourth place under the Brazilian sun.
“I remember the 2005 World Cup very clearly, of course I do,” said Makino with a smile. “We lost to Portugal because of Madjer.”
Just as he did in Rio, the great Madjer helped himself to a brace against the Asians in Espinho, while Alan, another double scorer on the Copacabana that day, was also on target on Thursday.
Appearing in his seventh world finals, the vastly experienced Makino remained upbeat about his side’s chances, despite their opening-day setback: “We knew it was going to be difficult but we played a good match against Portugal. We’ve got a game coming up against Argentina and we can’t afford to lose it. We’ll be giving it everything. We got a mix of experienced and young players and I’m sure they’re going to do a good job in taking over from us.”
Continuing to talk up his side’s chances in Espinho, the 39-year-old said: “We’re training to win. We don’t just want to get to the quarters. We’re looking at the semis, the final and then lifting the trophy.”
Like the veteran Makino, Japan’s Brazilian coach Marcelo Mendes was also impressed by what he saw from his side: “I’m very proud of my team and I don’t feel disappointed at all. We created a lot of chances but we just couldn’t take them.”
Argentina’s defeat of Senegal in the day’s other game in Group A has left the Japanese with little margin for error in their bid to reach the last eight, as Mendes acknowledged: “We have to beat Argentina, no question. We’re going to take a very close look at them, identify their weak points and try to exploit them.”
As they seek to pick themselves up from Thursday’s reverse, Japan can take comfort from the knowledge that they have been here before and gone on to flourish. The trick for them is to go and do it again.