Japan's under-fire coach Takeshi Okada breathed a sigh of relief Friday after getting a vote of confidence from the nation's Football Association chief, despite a run of uninspiring results.
FA president Motoaki Inukai said on Thursday he had no intention of sacking Okada, the day after Japan battled to a 1-1 draw at home with underdogs Uzbekistan in a 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifier.
"It makes me glad to know that he has said so," Okada told reporters after a staff meeting at the Japan Football Association headquarters. "I will only do my best to help the team win."
In another glaring show of feeble firepower, Japan, the top-ranked Asian side, drew 1-1 with United Arab Emirates in a home friendly a week earlier.
"I have no choice but to trust coach Okada and see his team win through the qualifying round with Japan's own brand of football," the FA chief said, adding that Okada was taking the country in the "right direction."
Keiji Tamada cancelled out Maksim Shatskikh's 27th-minute opener to earn a point but it was the first time in 11 years that Japan failed to win a home qualifier. Japan could convert only one of 14 attempts at goal.
The result has fuelled criticism that Okada lacks an offensive strategy, leaving Japan level with Qatar at four points on the Asian Group 1 table topped by Australia with the maximum six points.
Bahrain and Uzbekistan trail with one point each.
Although Japan still have an ample chance of qualifying, it was widely seen likely that Okada may have to quit the job if Japan lose to Qatar in their next qualifier away on 19 November. Japan beat Bahrain 3-2 in their opening qualifier.
Okada blamed Japan's struggle against Uzbekistan, ranked 70th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola world ranking, on a few mistakes they made in the first 10 minutes.
"Our players opted to play safety first," said Okada, who took over from Ivica Osim after the seasoned Bosnian tactician suffered a stroke last November. "We would have been all right if we did not make the mistakes."