"Basically, we can't create chances unless we run more than our opponents," said the 30-year-old lynchpin of Japan's midfield. "I won't let the initiative go even against the Netherlands." In their Group E opener in Bloemfontein on Monday, Japan collectively outran Cameroon by almost 110 kilometres to 103 kilometres (68 miles to 64 miles) in total distance covered, according to data from FIFA.
Gamba Osaka playmaker Endo accounted for more than 11 kilometres, further than any of his teammates, at an altitude of 1,400m. The Netherlands themselves ran about 100 kilometres in beating Denmark 2-0 in even thinner air at 1,750m altitude in Johannesburg. "I'm not sure if it was good to run so much at high altitude," Endo said. "But our momentum did not go down."
Now the former Asian champions, whose best FIFA World Cup result was a last 16 spot at home in 2002, and the Dutch are to go head-to-head for the Group E lead at sea level in Durban. Endo said the Netherlands have "excellent players but weak points too. They are a side we can fully deal with".
Endo, the 2009 Asian Footballer of the Year, said he was specially targeting midfield maestro Wesley Sneijder, who led Inter Milan to the Champions League title. "He will play a key role whatever formation we may take. I won't be let him free," he said. The Netherlands succeeded in 78 percent of passes against Denmark and Japan coach Takeshi Okada has told his charges they will need to defend tooth and nail.
"If we don't put more pressure on the Dutch side than we did against Cameroon, we will let them pass the ball around at will," said the coach who engineered Monday's result, Japan's first in the FIFA World Cup on foreign soil. In a friendly in the Netherlands last September, the Blue Samurai held the Dutch for most of the match until conceding three late goals in a late collapse.