Japan coach Takeshi Okada has come under fire again after a shock defeat to Bahrain ahead of their 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying showdown with arch rivals Australia.
Japan went down 1-0 to their lower-ranked opponents in an away qualifier on Wednesday for the 2011 Asian Cup, which they have won three times. "It always feels shocking when you lose," Okada told reporters after the tie in Manama, described by the coach as a "must-win" test ahead of their February 11 home World Cup qualifying clash with the physically stronger Socceroos, unbeaten leaders in Asia's Group A.
"I believe we have learned various lessons ahead of the Australia game," he said.
Asked in a post-match press conference whether the loss was a source of shame, Okada said it was "what you may call a shock or something very unfortunate".
I believe we have learned various lessons ahead of the Australia game
"Fire him right now!!" a headline in the tabloid Nikkan Gendai cried Thursday. "Can't win under Okada."
Okada was "censured in a kangaroo court in a post-match press conference", said the evening daily Tokyo Sports.
In the FIFA World Cup race, Japan trail with two wins and one draw. A 3-0 away defeat of Qatar in their last qualifier in November eased pressure on Okada who had been criticised for a lack of clear-cut offensive tactics.
"We made a lot of passing mistakes in midfield, leading the opponents to launch counter-attacks. But we managed to stop it in the second half," Okada said. "The flow of the game after the middle of the second half clearly showed what we must do."
Japan, missing key midfielders Shunsuke Nakamura of Celtic and Yasuhito Endo of Asian champions Gamba Osaka, struggled against Bahrain's long balls and fast breaks and failed to break the Gulf side's tight defence.
Salman Isa headed in a Hussain Baba free kick in the 24th minute. On the AFC Asian Cup qualifying table, Bahrain stood on top of Group A with two straight wins. Japan and Yemen were level with one win and one loss, followed by winless Hong Kong.
A second-string Australian side, missing Europe-based players, played to a scoreless draw with Indonesia in their Group B opener. Oman lead the group with one win and one draw after beating Kuwait 1-0 away. Indonesia follow with two draws.
The 1-0 win was Bahrain's second victory over Japan in seven encounters and followed two straight defeats to the Blue Samurai in World Cup qualifying last year -- one each in the next-to-last round and the current final round.