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Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK
Troussier thinks big for Japan
Japan coach Philippe Troussier
Troussier's no-nonsense style has rejuvenated Japan
Only time will tell whether Philippe Troussier is to say "sayonara" to Japan with a smile or a sigh.

Troussier has promised to end his four-year reign in charge of the Japanese side when their World Cup campaign comes to a close.

And the Frenchman is desperate to extend his stay right up to 30 June - the day of the final itself.

Open Quote
Success for us will be to play fairly and beautifully
Close Quote
Philippe Troussier

"Our dream is to win the World Cup," Troussier, 47, insists.

"It is the ultimate dream for all 32 teams participating.

"No one says we have zero chance of winning.

"Success for us will be to play fairly and beautifully, that the team can show the beauty of our soccer and soccer as a sport.

"I hope we express the values we stand by and find important, such as creativity and individuality."

Troussier has gone out of his way to stamp his values on the side.

Culture shock

The team he inherited had been in disarray after suffering three straight defeats and an early exit at France 98.

He admitted that he found the job a bit of a culture shock at first, but his previous African experiences as coach have served him well.

Troussier has had spells with Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and South Africa - who he coached at France 98.

"I have to make adjustments - it is part of the cultural experience," he said.

"I want my team to do the same but I think the Japanese are very organised.

"Even in their free time they need organisation.

"I gave them a day off and they all want to do the same thing.

Japanese players in action
Japan have toughened up under Troussier

"They take the same photographs, eat in the same restaurant.

"I had to close the hotel restaurant and told them to go out and do different things."

Troussier has been forced to stand up to both his players and his employers.

Two years ago he threatened to quit, claiming that the Japan Football Association were "interfering" with his job.

He once told his squad "you guys are not girls" during a training session designed to toughen them up.

And he has also had several run-ins with star player Hidetoshi Nakata.

The Parma midfielder is idolised in his homeland, but that did not stop Troussier relegating him to the bench for a friendly against Italy last November.

Nakata had upset Troussier by returning to Italy before the end of the Confederations Cup, last year's dress rehearsal for the World Cup.

Troussier insists: "Nakata is not a living God. He is important, but can he fit in and raise the performance of the team? That is the question.

"He is not a special priority to this team. I rate him equally with the others."

Things had looked bleak for Troussier when Japan went on a run of seven games without a win in 1999.

Resurgence

But the coach's disciplinarian approach gradually brought an improvement.

His flat back three formation initially caused a stir.

But the introduction of defensive midfielder Junichi Inamoto, who is now at Arsenal, brought stability and allowed the team to adopt an attacking style.

The tactics paid off when Japan won the 2000 Asian Cup in Lebanon and finished runners-up to France in the Confederations Cup.

Their resurgence has been so impressive that the side Troussier will send out to face Group H opponents Russia, Belgium and Tunisia has a good chance of making progress beyond the first stage.

"A win and a draw to reach the second round of the World Cup isn't a big enough challenge for me," insisted Troussier.

"My thinking has been able to mature and evolve in the backdrop of this culture," he added.

"I have learnt by being in Japan, and it has made me a stronger person.

"For more than three years I have had the luck of being surrounded by many talented players that have pulled through for me.

"The final stretch we are now approaching is the most important part of my career so far.

"All I can hope for is for everyone to trust me from now until the end."

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Japan coach Philippe Troussier
"It will be a beautiful World Cup"
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GROUP H
  P GD PTS
JAPAN 3 +3 7
BELGIUM 3 +1 5
RUSSIA 3 0 3
TUNISIA 3 -4 1

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