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Soccer-Japan coach seeks 'balance' so far missing in Brazil

Reuters

By Mary Milliken

CUIABA, Brazil, June 23 (Reuters) - Coach Alberto Zaccheroni thinks he can bring back the balance that has eluded Japan in their first two World Cup games in Brazil as they face unbeaten Colombia on Tuesday.

The South Americans have already qualified for the knockout stage and Japan need to win to have any hope of advancing with them after a loss and a scoreless draw.

Fellow Group C contenders Ivory Coast and Greece square off at the same time and also have chances.

"In the first two games, the balance was missing and we have now concentrated on the team to restore the balance that it needs," Zaccheroni told a news conference at Cuiaba's Pantanal arena.

For team captain Makoto Hasebe, in the last two games the team "lacked in speed and in intensity and those are things we really need to exert."

Zaccheroni has been Japan's coach since 2010, after they were eliminated in the round of 16 in South Africa, and quickly made them Asian champions in 2011.

"I have to say, surprisingly as far as I am concerned, that in this tournament we were unable to show what we had worked on previously," he said.

"This is an opportunity that we have. We really, really and absolutely have to get a result tomorrow."

Zaccheroni said it was also important to not give too much space to the high-flying Colombians because they "are good at gaining and exploiting space."

Central defender Maya Yoshida said there was a difference between facing opponents Japan are accustomed to in Asia and those they come up against from Europe and South America.

"When we play against Asian teams or European and South American teams it's completely different because normally Asian teams stay back and play defensively," Yoshida told reporters.

"That's why we can take the initiative (in Asia) but when we play against other countries it's more difficult for us." (Additional reporting by Rex Gowar, Editing by Nigel Hunt)

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