World Cup – Takeshi Okada predicts a battle between Denmark and Japan

Japan coach Takeshi Okada has predicted a big, bruising battle against Denmark on Thursday, demanding something special from his players to stay alive in the World Cup.

Japan need only a draw to reach the last 16 as they have a better goal difference than Denmark, although the two sides are level at three points in Group E.

The Netherlands are already assured of advancing having won both matches in the group.

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Japan’s World Cup squad picked by coach Takeshi Okada

Rumors have spread that despite Japan’s improvement and reaching fourth finals, they could still find themselves over-powered at the World Cup 2010 in South Africa. The 23-member World Cup squad, including four new Europe-based players(Keisuke Honda, Makoto Hasebe, Daisuke Matsui, Takayuki Morimoto) have been picked to put those rumors to rest. Japan’s coach, Takeshi Okada, hopes the European-based players will give the team some additional attacking strength.

History of Japan leading up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa:

Japan’s first major achievement in international football came in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, where the team won the bronze medal. This raised awareness of the sport in Japan but absence of a professional domestic league hindered its growth and Japan had to wait 30 years before qualifying for the World Cup.

In 1991, the owners of the semi-professional Japan Soccer League agreed to disband the league and re-form as the professional J League to raise the sport’s profile and to strengthen the national team programme. With the launch of the new league in 1993, interest in football and the national team grew.

Japan co-hosted the 2002 World Cup with South Korea. Despite being held to a 2-2 draw by Belgium in their opening game, the Japanese team reached the second round with a 1-0 win over Russia and a 2-0 victory against Tunisia. However, they subsequently exited the tournament during the Round of 16, after losing 1-0 to the eventual third-place finishers, Turkey.