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World Cup 2002 - Made in Japan: Hooligans


by R. Sanborn Brown

Photograph copyright ©2002 Kjeld Duits

  In the lead up to the Japan-Turkey Round of 16 match held on June 18th, people in the south Osaka entertainment areas of Namba and Shinsaibashi could not help but have mixed feelings. Bar owners and restaurateurs would of course root for the national team; however, had Japan won there would no doubt have been a repeat of the late-night celebrations that have degenerated into violence following each Japan win. Whenever Japan won in the first round of the World Cup signs were smashed, trash was thrown all over the street, and what onlookers called the "insolence" of the crowd was everywhere.

In response, according to Japanese media sources, stores have hired security and many closed early. The police, which deployed some 7,000 for the England-Argentina match—or nearly one for every British supporter in attendance—has made extensive and well-publicized preparations for British Hooligans who have thus far caused few if any problems. The idea, however, that homegrown supporters would cause trouble apparently never crossed anyone's mind. "The people in south Osaka causing trouble aren't soccer fans, they are people who just want to cause trouble. People who may have no other place to blow off steam," said one police official. Following the victory celebrations over Tunisia, it took 100 storeowners over five hours to clean up the mess: cigarettes, broken glass, clothes people throw off to jump in the nearby river, plastic bottles, etc. amounted to some five times more than the normal amount of litter. One owner noted, "The English fans we were all cowering about have been real gentlemen. It's the local—made in Japan-hooligans—that have burned us."

Pixie: The Limits of Troussier Tactic

With a CV that includes stints at Red Star Belgrade, Olympique Marseille, Verona, Nagoya Grampus Eight, and 84 games for the Yugoslavia national team (including the 1990 & 1998 World Cups), Dragan ‘Pixie' Stojkovic has literally been around the soccer world. After retiring from professional football last year, he has been working as the Yugoslav Football Federation President and is also writing a column in the Japanese language daily Asahi Shinbun on the current World Cup.

In the June 20th installment, he excoriated Japan's trainer Philippe Troussier as being the cause of Japan's 1-0 tournament-ending defeat at the hands of Turkey. "One can only wonder at the formation and starting line-up" [in the Turkey match], wrote Stojkovic. Why did Troussier choose to go with a 3-6-1 formation, "in which one lone forward is left to fend for himself?" In this formation, the forward will quickly be surrounded and unable to move. With a 3-5-2 formation, the two forwards would have far more options.

Stojkovic also questioned Troussier's selection of starters for what turned out to be Japan's last match. "The coach should have stayed with the team that contributed to the wins that took Japan through to the second round. Why in the world were guys like [striker Takayuki] Suzuki—who has played briliiantly—left to rot on the bench?" Why did [midfielder Alessandro] Santos start instead of coming off the bench as he has throughout the tournament? Stojkovic conjectured that Troussier's game plan was to play defensively in the first half, go off at halftime with a 0-0 tie, and then turn it on in the second half. [The problem with this strategy] "…is that your highest priority must be on winning…and if you don't score, you won't win." And early in the first half, thanks to a pass mistake, Japan went down by a goal. Still, Troussier stuck with the pre-game plan, not substituting until after the half.

The team gave its all, dominating much of the game, but there were simply not enough shots. On a rainy day, anything could happen, Stojkovic argued. "It was a total waste. When the loss was sealed with the referee's final whistle, Michel Platini, Zico, and I let out sighs…looking down at the VIP section, nearly everyone was rooting for Japan." Japan played beautiful and entertaining soccer in the tournament. However, "in this game, it gave me indigestion. Getting to the Round of 16 was no doubt as far as Japan was going to go under Troussier Tactics."

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