Wenger advice over Cameroon threat
Japan coach Takeshi Okada has sought the advice of Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who has warned that World Cup opponents Cameroon will look to make the most of their height advantage.
Japan open their World Cup account against Cameroon on June 14 in Bloemfontein, South Africa and Okada admitted (upon his return from Europe) that the size difference could be a factor. He said: "I'd better let my players eat a lot and grow taller as countermeasures.
"Cameroon usually play passing football but they may possibly hit our weak point by kicking long balls.''
Okada said he was advised by Wenger, who managed Nagoya Grampus Eight before joining Arsenal in 1996, over dinner in London and took the chance to ask him about fellow Frenchman and Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen, who was reported to have closely consulted Wenger before becoming manager of the Scottish side Rangers in 2006.
"I asked him if Le Guen is an idealist or realist,'' Okada said. ''Is he a person who follows his ideal or takes a realistic approach by adjusting to opponents?"
Wenger apparently called Le Guen a realist and Okada, who has set his sights on guiding Japan to the World Cup semi-finals, plans to announce his 23-strong World Cup squad on May 10. Japan's first test is to progress from a tough group in which the former Asian champions also face the Netherlands and Denmark.
In Europe, Okada met with three Japanese midfieders - CSKA Moscow rookie Keisuke Honda, Makoto Hasebe of Wolfsburg and Grenoble's Daisuke Matsui.
"They were all in fine shape and I felt secure," said Okada, who has indicated that they are all shoe-ins for his World Cup squad. "Honda played a central role in the team. He is really dependable." Okada added.
Honda has formed a potent midfield alliance with Milos Krasic for CSKA this season, helping the Moscow side reach the Champions League quarter-finals before they lost to Inter Milan. Honda's impressive form has seen him become Japan's playmaker and he will be key to their hopes of success in South Africa.