Japan’s national football team, the Samurai Blue, will be testing their mettle against two high-ranked teams as they go on another European friendly football match tour this November. They will face the Netherlands, ranked eight in the world and the 2010 World Cup finalist, on November 16 and then world number-five Belgium three days later on November 19.
The Samurai Blue’s coach Alberto Zaccheroni has been facing a lot of criticism lately, despite leading the team to a fifth consecutive World Cup finals appearance. The team has been on a losing streak of late, winning just four out of 11 games they last played, including shock defeats to Serbia (2-0) and Belarus (1-0) earlier this month. They also lost all three of their group matches at the Confederations Cup in Brazil last June. But Zaccheroni believes they need to continue playing against top-ranked teams away from home in order to “accurately assess” their abilities and see where they are compared to these teams.
He believes it will be a great chance to play against Belgium, which he considers the “fastest growing team in Europe” right now. They’ve met three times before, drawing two and with Japan beating the Belgians 4-0 in 2009. But that was when the European side were still ranked 62nd in the world. Japan is currently at number 44, the highest Asian side in the FIFA rankings. Despite calls for Zaccheroni to be replaced as the national team’s head coach, Japan Football Association (JFA) technical director Hiromi Hara said this is “not a time to react nervously,” signalling that the Italian’s job is safe for now.
[ via Global Post ]