Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni blamed his players’ poor physical condition for their 1-0 loss to Uzbekistan on Wednesday.
With some Europe-based players, including Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa, arriving as late as Tuesday, a lack of sharpness appeared to be Japan’s downfall in the Asian Football Confederation qualifying match for the 2014 World Cup.
“We’re sorry (about the outcome of the game),” Zaccheroni said.
“We wanted to do better, but when one loses, credit should also be given to the opponent.”
“Uzbekistan were missing some of their starters, but they still showed how good a team they are.”
“We did better in the first half, but they were better in the second half. Still we missed a lot of passes and they won all of the 50-50 challenges.”
“Besides the goal and the counterattacks, they never gave us problems. Still they were very focused and aggressive and never gave us much time to think.”
With players such as Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki hesitating to shoot throughout the night, Zaccheroni said his players needed to be willing to force more opportunities.
“One thing we must improve are shots from outside the box,” he said.
“Many times we had a free player outside the penalty area, but they always tried to get inside instead of shooting.”
“(Takashi) Inui, Okazaki, Kagawa. They need to take some shots.”
Japan have no international fixtures before the final round of World Cup qualifiers begins on June 3, and Zaccheroni said he hoped his players would be in better shape later this year.
“In these three months I just want my players to play as much as possible,” Zaccheroni said.
“The fact that part of our team is based in Europe is of course a difficulty that exists, but we need to learn to live with it.”
“The teams we’ll meet in the next round are almost all physically strong teams, so we need to be ready for that.”