by Holger Osieck
Japan's performance in the 1-0 victory over Cameroon did not really surprise me. They are not so incisive in the final third but they have a solid playing system and did not give the Africans many opportunities. I know some of them personally, such as the creative force Yasuhito Endo, as well as Keisuke Honda and Makoto Hasebe, who have both improved considerably in recent times.
I also know the coach Takeshi Okada very well so I know how he plays. I'm happy for him that he has made such a good start. He was already under pressure before the tournament because his team didn't acquit themselves very well in the friendly matches, so I've left him alone over the last few days and kept my thoughts to myself. The importance of friendlies can often be exaggerated in Japan.
We're still only at the start of the tournament so teams are playing with the mentality of not conceding rather than scoring goals. The golden rule of that philosophy is simple: Don't start with a defeat. Playing your way into a tournament is certainly never easy. The flow and rhythm of the game develops over time throughout the course of a tournament. Furthermore, a fantastic start does not necessarily mean a team is going to have a good tournament. It's always difficult to predict how a team will fare.
Although we've not seen so many goals so far, except from Germany, I don't see that as a major problem. We still have many highlights and much drama to look forward to. I was at the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa last year. The stadiums here are very good and the fans are very passionate. My favourites for the title are definitely the usual contenders. From South America, Brazil and Argentina, Spain because of their performances in recent years and possibly also Germany if they can maintain those standards. The Netherlands certainly have the potential to win it too.
It doesn't matter whether a team starts with one or two strikers, as many systems can be successful and not everyone plays the same. Ultimately, it is always individual brilliance that makes the difference and brings success, and that's a good thing. If everything rested on the tactical system, then all teams would play the same way.