Japan's Okada under pressure to improve team
TOKYO (AP) -- Japan coach Takeshi Okada has been warned over unacceptable team form but will remain in charge for the World Cup, the Japan Football Association said Monday.
Japan lost to Asian rivals South Korea 3-1 on Sunday in the final game of the four-nation East Asian Championship and finished third overall with a disappointing record of 1-1-1. China won the tournament after wins over South Korea and Hong Kong.
After Sunday's game, Japanese fans booed Okada as he made his way off the field and held up signs calling for his dismissal. A poll in Japan showed 88 percent of Japanese fans think Okada should be replaced before the World Cup finals in South Africa in June.
"I take full responsibility for the results and apologize to the fans for the fact we weren't able to win yesterday," Okada said Monday. "But we will go ahead with our preparations for the World Cup as planned."
Okada met Japan Football Association president Motoaki Inukai at JFA headquarters on Monday. For now, the 53-year-old coach has the backing of Inukai.
"We have no plans to replace the coach before the World Cup," Inukai said. "But performances like this will be unacceptable at the World Cup."
Japan has had trouble scoring and only found the net three times in the East Asian Championship. Prior to that, they were held to a 0-0 draw with Venezuela in a tuneup match.
Despite never winning a World Cup match on foreign soil, Okada, citing South Korea's run to the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup, surprised many in December when he said there he saw no reason why his team can't make the last four of the 2010 World Cup.