We’ll out­run the Dutch, says Ja­panese lynch­pin

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

YA­SUHITO ENDO, who worked hard­est for Ja­pan in their shock 1-0 win over Cameroon, wants his side to run the Nether­lands into the ground in their sec­ond World Cup game to­day.

“Ba­si­cally, we can’t cre­ate chances un­less we run more than our op­po­nents,” said the 30-yearold lynch­pin of Ja­pan’s mid­field. “I won’t let the ini­tia­tive go, even against the Nether­lands.”

In their Group E World Cup opener in Bloemfontein on Mon­day, Ja­pan col­lec­tively out­ran Cameroon by al­most 110 kilo­me­tres to 103km in to­tal dis­tance cov­ered, ac­cord­ing to data from Fifa.

Gamba Osaka play­maker Endo ac­counted for more than 11km, fur­ther than any of his team­mates, at an al­ti­tude of 1 400m.

The Nether­lands them­selves ran about 100km in beat­ing Den­mark 2-0 in even thin­ner air at 1 750m al­ti­tude in Jo­han­nes­burg.

“I’m not sure if it was good to run so much at high al­ti­tude,” Endo said. “But our mo­men­tum did not go down.”

Now the for­mer Asian cham­pi­ons, whose best World Cup re­sult was a last 16 spot at home in 2002, and the Dutch are to go head-to­head for the Group E lead at sea level in Dur­ban.

Endo said the Nether­lands have “ex­cel­lent play­ers but weak points too. They are a side we can fully deal with.”

Endo, the 2009 Asian Foot­baller of the Year, said he was spe­cially tar­get­ing mid­field mae­stro Wes­ley Snei­jder, who led In­ter Mi­lan to the Cham­pi­ons League ti­tle.

“He will play a key role what­ever for ma­tion we may take. I won’t be let­ting him free,” he said.

The Nether­lands suc­ceeded in 78 per­cent of passes against Den­mark and Ja­pan coach Takeshi Okada, who has boldly set his tar­get of a semi-fi­nal spot in South Africa, has told his charges they need to de­fend tooth and nail against the at­tack-minded Dutch.

“If we don’t put more pres­sure on the Dutch side than we did against Cameroon, we will let them pass the ball around at will,” said the coach who rel­ished Mon­day’s re­sult, Ja­pan’s first World Cup win on for­eign soil.

The Nether­lands, with play­ers who are ac­tive in Europe’s top leagues, are the bet­ter side on paper de­spite the ab­sence of su­per­star Ar­jen Robben, boast­ing the likes of Snei­jder and Rafael Van der Vaart.

Cre­ative play is tra­di­tion­ally char­ac­terised by the Oranje, with ef­fi­ciency an as­set, and this team, coached by Bert van Mar­wijk, hopes it can land to the longed-for World Cup ti­tle that has es­caped even its most tal­ented pre­de­ces­sors.

Van Mar­wijk, 58, and his play­ers know that any crit­i­cism of less-than-beau­ti­ful play will van­ish as long as re­sults are good.

In­deed, dur­ing the 22 matches un­der his guid­ance, Van Mar­wijk has built up the best record of any Nether­lands coach so far.

But the Dutch have his­tor­i­cally val­ued their cre­ative play more than any ti­tle, and they are still not that ex­cited about a coach who is ready to har­ness at­tack­ing tal­ent into the ser­vice of ef­fi­ciency.

Of course, Van Mar­wijk and ev­ery­one else be­lieve that at­tain­ing the elu­sive World Cup ti­tle could quickly change this.

“It’s not al­ways ap­pro­pri­ate to play beau­ti­fully,” he warned. And his play­ers have got the mes­sage.

“It’s true that we played a bit like the Ger­mans,” Van der Vaart said of their first World Cup match.

“The coach has brought us a greater ef­fec­tive­ness.”

But this no-frills style com- mands only frag­ile sup­port, and above all it de­pends on re­sults: an in­op­por­tune de­feat, or even a draw, could bring back the calls for cre­ativ­ity. – Sapa-AFP and Sapa-dpa


RUN­NING AMOK: Ja­pan’s hare, Ya­suhito Endo.

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