GANBARE NIPPON! On to the World Cup Best Sixteen!


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Hi Blog. It was certainly worth getting up at an ungodly hour this morning to watch the Japan vs. Denmark football match. Defying many people’s expectations (especially the domestic media’s), Japan has played very well in this World Cup, and earned their keep today by beating Denmark (according to FIFA, the 36th ranked, with Japan the 45th) soundly and clearly, 3-1.  Omedetou!!

Now the Japan team is advancing to the quarterfinals Best Sixteen.  I had strong doubts about having Okada on as coach again (given his previous dismal performance, I thought the powers that be hired him essentially because he’s Japanese).  Looks like I was wrong — he does have more than a pretty face.  Good team, good football, good games so far.  Again, well done.  Ganbare!!  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

UPDATE:  Thought of this while cycling to work this morning:  To put a angle on this issue, let’s keep an eye out on how the Japanese media begins to spin this victory.  I’ve found that if a team representing Japan loses, the media looks for an issue of unfairness or unequalness (such as the alleged lack of good food at the Turin (a city hosting a world cuisine!) Olympics affecting Japanese performance).  But if there is a win, the media searches for “Japanese qualities” that gave the J athlete an advantage (winning J swimmers keep having the “yamato damashii” (Japanese Spirit) attributed to them).  I already saw TV commentary this morning referring to the special “cooperativeness” of Japan’s soccer team.  But of course, if they had lost, no doubt we’d hear about the innately small and weaker Japanese bodies going up against the formidable Danish and Dutch tank-built bodies, etc.  It’s never a neutral, “may the best man win on a level playing field”, is it?  There are plenty of examples of how sports rules under Japanese control are tailored to that bias (here, here, and here).  It’s not terribly “sporting”.

Ears open for how this gets spun, everyone?  Thanks.  D

23 comments on “GANBARE NIPPON! On to the World Cup Best Sixteen!

  • Japan will have to beat Paraguay before advancing to the quarterfinals

    — Sorry. What’s the appropriate term here?

  • jjobseeker says:

    In terms of WC, Japan has entered the Best 16 stage. After that, it’s the Quarter Finals (8 teams remaining). Then, after that, it’s the Semi Finals (4 teams remaining), then the Finals.

    In terms of how Japanese media is covering this, I am always amused by the manic-depressive nature of coverage that can go on here. From the hyperboles and over-optimism after their first “history making” win, to the toned down, “mada kanosei aru” reaction after their first loss, to once again, the return to hyperboles after this recent win. Granted it was a very good win, but WC is sort of like Japanese politics at this point. Everyone is focused too much on the one game, the one victory, and immediate gratification that they forget this is just the first stage. It gets tougher from here and the true results won’t be seen for a little while more. But with proper preparedness, and an eye on the long-term goal, good things can happen.

    I also find it interesting that the media has really avoided mentioning how the key players that are always mentioned in terms of Japan’s winning potential are the players with international experience, particularly Honda in this year’s WC. Haven’t heard any commentators speaking of the benefits of going abroad to learn and experience ways of doing things that build better players or perhaps better citizens.

  • “Sweet sixteen” maybe? But that’s the NCAA background in me coming out.

    The playing field is never quite level, and I think it’s common in all countries to blame the weather, the referee, or whatever external factor for the team’s lousy performance. The US has certainly been playing a lot of blame-the-ref lately (justified, in my opinion). The only exception I’ve seen in this Cup is France — Sarkozy has done a pretty good job of drumming down the French team for being whiny, unpatriotic, uncooperative pricks, which is satisfying to an Ireland fan like me.

    Anyway, I’m rooting for Japan — Paraguay will be a tough opponent, and Japan needs every spiritual boost it can get right now. Plus TV Asahi will probably keep repeating the clip of Tulio giving up his gaijin card.

  • Japan hasn’t reached the quarter-finals yet, Debido; they’ve advaced to the last 16. The quarter-finals are the last eight teams, the sem-finals the last two teams, and the finals… well, you get the idea.

  • It`s called the round of 16….LOL at the ungodly hour…Being english i have to wake up regular at this hour to watch the Premier league in winter..but yes a great performance from Japan.

    They have played some great football!…ganbare indeed.

  • Asia (or, for Japanese people, “Asia and Japan”) is really representing this time around. Japan and South Korea qualified for the knockout round, Australia tied and beat [a] stronger team, second weakest team New Zealand went undefeated. And North Korea…well, we love North Korea.

  • Good Job Japan!

    My wife (Japanese) thought Japan would lose and did not want to watch the game. I made her watch the game with me anyway and it was awesome to see them win.

    As far as spin, my wife read an article about one reason why Japan played better in the 2002 WC, when they co-hosted with South Korea, is that they did not had to deal with the jet lag of flying to South Africa to play a soccer game. The team showed what a BS excuse that is.

  • Well if Japan loses my students will get more sleep and probably fewer of them will be late or absent to class. Some were pretty chipper today. Otherwise they are rather dour.

    Japan played well. I did not expect it. In the the friendlies they were bad, but they just have to win now. I think they could beat Paraguay but after that, it gets real tough.

  • On the NHK News 7 tonight there was no mention of the goal Denmark scored in the section on the match…virtually a 3-0 win then!

  • and now all of a sudden everyone jumped on the japan soccer team bandwagon, and if they lose the next game the media will say the other team is too tall, like they said back in 2006 and then all the sudden loyal supportors will jump off the bandwagon faster then hatoyama resigned. excuses excuses excuses. And now all of a sudden there starting to call the team okada-japan can you believe it.

  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    Sorry folks – I have no interest in sport, and have to agree with Johnny in post #2 – Japan loses and we don’t have to put up with: replays 60,000 times a day for the next week; interviews with players’ family, friends, second grade elementary teachers; commentators with 3-word vocabularies (“ganbare”, “tsuyoi”, “Nippon”); or smug kids in mock-up uniforms at elementary school who think they are better than the white guy because Japan won.
    Interestingly, one of the news services did cover some of the bad behaviour by fans in Shibuya, but failed to call it hooliganism.

    — Quite. See here too.

  • Ok I have the best prediction.

    Team Japan wins the World Cup and the entire country attributes it to the fact that they finally brought in a Japanese coach who understands the Japanese spirit.

  • Just to concur with your point about sour grapes or gloating as the two most likely outcomes. I’m an athlete living in Japan. Everytime I win anything; “gaijin ha gatai ga ii ne”.

  • John (Yokohama) says:

    I’m confused… so running around more without the ball compared to other teams is some kind of special “Japanese” mojo? 😉

    “Even the ball possession rates of the three opponents in the first round — Cameroon, the Netherlands and Denmark — all surpassed those of Japan, but Japan exceeded in terms of the total running distance for the 11 players on the pitch in all of the three games. That’s something very “Japanese,” that is unswerving and led them on to the second round.”

    “Unique Japanese team ‘oneness,’ on-field hustle led to World Cup opening round success”

    — The Japanese version is significantly less “unique” in tone — more “Nihon ga tokui” — as in Japan is pretty good at it. The translator has taken a few liberties with the Nihonjinron tone. Especially in the headline. Where’s the word “unique” here?
    サッカー:南アフリカW杯 日本、走り抜いて16強 「個」の理想捨て組織戦

    Relevant excerpt: 岡田監督が大会直前まで求めた「理想」とは、日本が得意とする組織力だけではなく、選手が個々の力でも世界と対等に戦うこと。だが、デンマーク戦後には「まだ世界との差はある。同じ数のチャンスを作ったら、決定力の差でやられる可能性が大きい」とも話した。日本の強みを最大限に生かす「守備的な組織戦」という現実路線に切り替えた理由は、そこにある。

  • International sport does tend to bring out the worst in patriotic pseudo-psychology. This from the BBC website:

    South Korea coach Huh Jung-moo has described his players as “true Koreans” after their 2-1 second-round defeat to Uruguay in Port Elizabeth.

    “My players never gave up, they were tenacious and rose to the challenge,” he said.

    His side managed to draw it level after going a goal down, but had no reply to Luis Suarez’s 80th minute strike.

    “Uruguay were lucky enough to score, we lost because we weren’t able to match them,” Huh added.

    “Our players never give up no matter what the situation. We were on a high, we were doing quite well”

    It was South Korea’s first knock-out stage World Cup game off home soil.

    “We wanted to go to the quarter-finals and my players did their best but we didn’t get there,” said the coach.

    “We had lots of opportunities and I thought Uruguay was lucky to put in the goals.”

    So, Uruguay was lucky (to score one of the goals of the tournament) and the South Koreans showed true Korean spirit (because heroic losses are more honourable than victories and you can dine out on them for ages). We’ve had lots of crap here in NZ about the Kiwi attitude and ability to make do with limited resources: the “little guy battles the odds” kind of stuff. Incidentally, Uruguay has a population of about 3.5 million and has won two Worl Cups. Their media must be going stratospheric…

  • I grew up in America when, except for the World Cup, soccer was almost never on TV. I enjoyed watching countries like Brazil, Italy, Germany, Holland, etc. I like to see the US win but given a choice I would much rather see the great soccer of people like Lionel Messi of Argentina or the Brazilians. Or see some minnow country pull off a miracle. There seems to be too much nationalism and not enough appreciation of good soccer.

    — Amen. I’m rooting for whatever team shows me the best soccer in this World Cup. I had narrowed it down to Argentina, Brazil, and Portugal, but after that boring “let’s kick the ball around listlessly so we can have a scoreless tie” Brazil vs. Portugal game the other day (what a rip! even the crowd booed!), right now I’m rooting for Argentina.

  • Have to disagree with the posters above. I don’t care how the media will spin it, I don’t care how many Nihonjinron types will crow over it, I’m supporting Japan in this cup (second to my native England, of course). The patriotism that comes with international sporting competitions should be the most innocent expression of national pride, in that at the end of the day we all realise it’s just a game. It’s irrational, and it doesn’t particularly mean anything, but who cares, I live here, I like it here, and I hope Japan gets a good boost from a good performance.

    By the way, I don’t know if anyone else is watching England vs Germany now, but that last goal was bloody well in! We was robbed!

    — I agree. WTF was that call?! In, in, in! Another “Hand of God” (a la Maradona) divine intervention to make the ref temporarily blind when England is playing…?

  • I do get a bit more patriotic than usual when the Socceroos(the Australian national football team) but I usually am over whatever emotions I felt so strongly by the next day. My wife is also the average pessimist when it comes to Japan’s hopes but that could be a ‘Japanese’ personality trait.

    Poor England. That goal may have made a difference.

    Germany might just go on to win…

    Oh and Go Japan against Paraguay. If the Kiwis can draw level with em…

  • Frank Lampard says:

    FIFA have no “apologized” to England (and Mexico) for poor refereeing.

    As it makes no difference to the final result (as Germany put away 4), I think the least they can do is change the score after the fact.

    Lampard, as probably the only player who possibly deserves to stay on that troubled “team” (actually, a bunch of individual-minded egotists), should be awarded the goal, and it was a good one.

    I can only say its Karma for Hurst’s in 1966 against Germany.


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