Football: Japan refuse to blame travel sickness for defeat

BRASïLIA (AFP) - Japan were despondent after losing Saturday's Confederations Cup opener 3-0 to Brazil, the result barely an improvement on a 4-0 friendly thumping last October.

Brazil reacted to that win by firing Mano Menezes from the coaching hotseat, a case of dumping the devil you know for the one they used to know - although in Luiz Felipe Scolari they reinstated a man who delivered them the 2002 World Cup, and in Japan at that.

After this latest lesson - Japan have now drawn two and lost eight of their meetings with the Selecao going back to 1989 - there were few positives for their Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni.

"We are not the team we saw tonight - we can do so much better. Now I must talk to the team and see if it was the early goal which sank us," said the Japan coach.

Manchester United star Shinji Kagawa said he felt angry with himself as Japan struggled to find their feet having only been in the country barely three days after completing their successful World Cup qualifying programme in Doha last Tuesday with a win over Iraq.

"I don't think we can use the travelling as an excuse. We just didn't find our game. It's very disappointing. We had the chance to play Brazil but we couldn't reach our level. The first half was okay and in the second half we thought we might get back into it but it didn't happen and the second goal caught us cold," Kagawa said.

Zaccheroni alluded to the long journey and said he would have to see if that was a mitigating factor.

"We only just came over following the game in Qatar and maybe we didn't quite hit the best level of fitness in such a short time," he said.

"I am not upset, but I am disappointed as we made some silly mistakes.

Today didn't prove much for us or for Brazil." Kagawa insisted falling behind to Neymar's stunning third-minute strike left the Japanese with a mountain to climb.

"The opening phase is so important and we shouldn't have given away such an early goal. Afterwards we needed to take some risks but we didn't or couldn't.

And I didn't get into the match," he conceded.

Teammate and Southampton defender Maya Yoshida admired Neymar's finish, but wished he had not needed to.

"The first goal was great, but it flattened us. The second (from Paulinho which keeper Eiji Kawashima got his hands to) we should not have conceded and the third (by Jo in stoppage time) was from a mistake. Brazil were at home and hence more aggressive. They forced us back with their technique." Kawashima, meanwhile, joined Kagawa in saying the flight from Qatar and the short acclimatisation period could not excuse the loss.

"We knew we had a long flight coming up and so that couldn't be helped. It wasn't the cause of the defeat," the Standard Liege shot-stopper said.

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