Japan's gritty defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka has urged his fellow Blue Samurai to think for themselves as under-fire coach Takeshi Okada struggles to find the right formula at the FIFA World Cup™.
"If we play as the coach has told us to play, it can hardly help us show our stuff," the Brazilian-born centre back said as underdogs Japan braced themselves for a tough World Cup opener against African powerhouse Cameroon on Monday.
"Football is fun just because each player has his own idea. I'll be ready to attack if there is a chance," he said.
Also known for his offensive skills, Tanaka has scored the only goal in Japan's four straight defeats to Serbia, South Korea, England and Côte d'Ivoire before a hastily arranged training match against Zimbabwe on Thursday which ended in a goalless draw.
The J-League Nagoya Grampus defender 'scored' for both teams in a 2-1 defeat by England - one was an own goal - and gained fame for notching another own goal and injuring star striker Didier Drogba in a clash in a 2-0 loss to Côte d'Ivoire.
Japanese media have been angered as Okada kept changing his squad's formation, shifting to tightly defensive tactics from his pervious style of fast, passing football. Three of the six FFA World Cup reporters for the Sankei Shimbun daily newspaper grimly predicted that Japan would lose all three matches in a Group E which also includes the favoured Netherlands and Denmark.
Football is fun just because each player has his own idea. I'll be ready to attack if there is a chance.
One of them criticised Okada, who has boldly set his goal of a semi-final spot in South Africa, for "changing plans at the last minute, failing to establish his offensive formation and fielding players on a trial-and-error basis." Okada has tested CSKA Moscow midfielder Keisuke Honda as a lone frontman with former Mallorca reserve striker Yoshito Okubo and Grenoble midfielder Daisuke Matsui behind him in his latest formation.
Honda, who helped the Moscow side reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals with a goal and an assist against Sevilla, seemed restricted to a passing role against Zimbabwe when he hardly unleashed a single shot.
"Honda doesn't belong there," said Tanaka. "His strong point is shooting and it is no good if he doesn't show it. I want to help create chances for him."
Honda, who turns 24 on the eve of the Cameroon clash, said: "Although we didn't score in such a short period, we managed to find several patterns that we can use against Cameroon. I take it as a positive."
The coach spent Friday's rest day locked in his room at Japan's five-star golfing hotel in the southern resort of George, technical director Hiromi Hara said.
"His strategy has been changing and I guess he is considering how to strike a balance between his ideal and the reality."