Dour, defensive Japan go from confident to comical

Sun Jun 15, 2014 10:45am EDT
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(Reuters) - Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni will begin an inquest into what went wrong with his Asian champions after their confident predictions of World Cup glory looked comical as they capitulated under tpressure against Ivory Coast.

Japan slumped to a 2-1 loss in their Group C clash in Recife on Saturday that left them with plenty of fixes required to make the knockout stages.

Zaccheroni said the inquest would begin at his door with his own goal of reaching the quarter-finals for the first time looking a tall order.

"I start with myself so I am going to ask myself what I should have done," the Italian told reporters.

"I expected a different performance and I want to analyze what I did and I will speak to the players and find out if it is an issue of maturity or something else."

Japan's impressive intricate attacking play that gave them an early lead was abandoned for uncharacteristic long balls and dour defensive tactics.

Substitute striker Yoshito Okubo said the team panicked under pressure, giving the ball away carelessly and players in the wrong position unable to hear instructions from Zaccheroni.

"As a team, I didn't think what we were doing was right. We were behind anyway so you might as well go for it. We were trying to defend too much," Okubo told Japanese reporters.

"We started going long at the end but that's not our style. Our feet stopped moving.   Continued...

Team Japan walk off the pitch after the 2014 World Cup Group C soccer match between Ivory Coast and Japan at the Pernambuco arena in Recife June 14, 2014. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich