Where to now for Japan?

World Cup 2010: Japan

Keisuke Honda criticised his team's defensive football and admitted that he wouldn't even have watched the match.

Takeshi Okada apologised to the nation for failing to achieve his goal of steering Japan to the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, broadcaster TBS is under fire for wringing a tearful apology from the mother of defender Yuichi Komano in the aftermath of Japan's heartbreaking 5-3 penalty shoot-out defeat to Paraguay.

As the dust settles on Japan's dramatic shoot-out exit from the FIFA World Cup, questions now turn to the future of the Japanese national team - and more specifically just who will coach the Samurai Blue following the rollercoaster reign of Okada.

The former Consadole Sapporo and Yokohama F. Marinos coach went into the tournament under a hail of media scrutiny, yet Okada revamped his public image by guiding his unfancied Japanese side to the Round of 16 in South Africa.

In the process, Japan recorded their first ever World Cup wins on foreign soil, beating Cameroon 1-0 and Denmark 3-1 en route to the knock-out stage.

Yet it was the conservative nature of their tactics against an equally cagey Paraguay which disappointed some critics - including CSKA Moscow midfielder Honda, who told the Asahi Shimbun that he wouldn't even have bothered to watch the game.

"My football life will go on," he told the newspaper after the loss. "We played defensively at this World Cup, but I hope we'll pursue winning through more attractive performances at the next World Cup," Honda added.

A disappointed Okada admitted his sorrow at failing to fulfill his pre-tournament ambition of reaching the semi-finals, but it was an apology of a different kind which drew fierce criticism in traditionally conservative Japan.

Broadcaster TBS drew widespread scorn when they interviewed Yuichi Komano's visibly upset mother in the wake of the defeat, with Jubilo Iwata defender Komano the unlucky player to miss during the shoot-out as his spot-kick clattered against the crossbar.

The Tokyo-based network appeared determined to wring an apology from the 28-year-old's mother, with the tacky interview drawing immediate condemnation across the four main islands of Japan.

Just why TBS felt compelled to force the issue with the ageing Komano matriarch remains a mystery, but a more pertinent question for fans of Japanese football is just who will take over at the helm of the national team.

Former Urawa Reds coach Guido Buchwald appeared to be the frontrunner prior to the World Cup, with his previous working relationship with JFA chief Motoaki Inukai often cited as an important factor.

Many domestic observers would like to see Gamba Osaka coach Akira Nishino handed the job, despite the fact that Nishino appears reluctant to throw his hat into the ring.

However, a new candidate has now emerged, as reports surface that Kashima Antlers coach Oswaldo de Oliveira may be approached to take over just three years after arriving in the country.

The Brazilian has won three successive J. League titles with the Ibaraki outfit, with many pundits now suggesting that the fiery tactician is the perfect candidate to take over from the departing Okada.

Whether de Oliveira takes charge of Japan remains to be seen, but if he does move into the international hotseat, he may drastically overhaul the Japanese squad.

Just two Kashima players were named in Okada's squad - defenders Atsuto Uchida and Daiki Iwamasa - and neither of them saw a minute of action in South Africa.

Copyright © Mike Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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