We’ll outrun the Dutch, says Japanese lynchpin
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.