Under-pressure coach Takeshi Okada said that a 1-0 friendly win over Ivory Coast had boosted Japan's stuttering World Cup qualifying campaign.
Okada, criticised for his heavily defensive style, has been on the backfoot since Japan lost to unfancied Bahrain 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier two months ago.
“Of course, winning a game is more encouraging than losing,” Okada said after Japan beat Ivory Coast thanks to Keiji Tamada's 21st-minute goal in their first match since the Bahrain debacle.
“Although we were not fighting Ivory Coast in the World Cup, we did our best against the opponents on the day,” he said after the friendly in Toyota on Saturday. “I feel happy about today's win but I don't mean it is everything.”
Okada called up Europe-based players for the first time since taking over from Ivica Osim in December against a visiting side short of many of their best players, including Chelsea forwards Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou.
Okada said the physically superior Africans were “the best opponents we can use to test what we are trying to do now.
“Our players still imploded at times in the first half and stalled in the second half to come under pressure. But they managed to hold on to the last minute.”
Japan continue their qualifying campaign by hosting Oman on June 2, travelling to Muscat for the return on June 7, then meet Thailand on June 14 before flying home to play Bahrain on June 22.
Bahrain stand top of the Asian Group 2 table with two wins and six points, ahead of Japan and Oman on three points and winless Thailand.
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