Putting a brave face on a grim outlook, Japan’s coach Zico says his players won’t give up, although to qualify for the second round of the World Cup it needs to beat Brazil by two goals.
And that’s not all: If Japan cruises past Brazil, it will also need Croatia to beat Australia.
Zico says his players won’t give up. "We didn’t want to be in this position and I said that before the tournament started," Zico said. "But as long as there’s a chance the team won’t give up."
Japan, which has never defeated Brazil in seven attempts, has to beat the defending champions by more than one goal.
An unlikely victory is not enough for Japan, which also needs Croatia to beat Australia in their concurrent match at Stuttgart.
Japan is in this predicament after losing 3-1 to Australia and playing a scoreless tie with Croatia.
Zico said the loss to Australia was critical to his team’s chance of moving on.
"We played well for 80 minutes of that match and then gave up three quick goals," said Zico. "That set us back from the start."
Brazil, which has already secured a place in the second round, could rest some of its starters for Thursday’s match.
Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said after Brazil’s 2-0 win over Australia on Sunday that he was considering fielding reserves against Japan to give some of the starters some rest ahead of the next round.
Either way it will be a tough task for Japan, which has had trouble scoring in this tournament.
Japan’s only goal in the tournament came in the Australia game when two Japan players bumped into Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, allowing Shunsuke Nakamura’s cross to float into the net.
Zico elected not to discuss any changes he will make to his starting lineup.
Japan goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi said he wasn’t afraid of Brazil’s strikers.
"Sure they have many great players," said Kawaguchi. "But we can’t worry about what they’re going to do and just have to play our style of soccer."
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