DURBAN (Reuters) - Japan coach Takeshi Okada believes his team learned valuable lessons in a friendly against the Netherlands last year and is confident they can beat one of the World Cup favourites on Saturday.
“Last September, we had an opportunity to play against the Netherlands team and it was a big turning point,” Okada told a news conference on Friday.
“We have been observing the Netherlands team ever since last September. They have gained further in terms of more maturity, they improved overall as a team,” he said.
“But we do believe that we have a chance to win tomorrow and we are betting on that chance.”
The Dutch still have fresh memories of their shock at being outplayed by the Japanese for an hour in last year’s friendly, even though the European side ultimately ran out 3-0 winners.
But a Japanese win in the Group E match in the Moses Mabhida stadium would be almost as big an upset as Switzerland’s victory over European champions Spain on the same ground on Wednesday.
Japan are brimming with confidence after an opening win 1-0 against Cameroon and Okada promised that his players would fight until the last kick.
“Aggressive, hard work both in attack and defence, as far as our team is concerned, will be constant. It will never change, we will never modify that strategy,” he said.
“A story of football can never be complete before the end of the match. So we will always keep challenging and believing.”
“We will do it.”
Editing by Ken Ferris