Japan fans urged to boo their hearts out

TOKYO - Japan's football chief wants disgruntled fans to continue jeering the national side in the hope of toughening them up before this year's World Cup.

Japan's players were booed from the pitch after Saturday's 0-0 home draw with China in the East Asian championship, piling more pressure on coach Takeshi Okada.

The Blue Samurai copped similar flak from fans after their goalless draw with Venezuela in a friendly in Kyushu four days earlier.

Japan Football Association (JFA) president Motoaki Inukai told Sunday's Sports Hochi: "I want the supporters to boo their hearts out. It's good for the players."

Okada has come under fire since his bold declaration that Japan's target at this year's World Cup in South Africa was the semi-finals.

Inukai added some perspective.

"We have problems - 180 minutes without a goal," he said.

"If we play like that at the World Cup we don't stand a chance."

Japan have never won a World Cup finals game on foreign soil and face Netherlands, Cameroon and Denmark in the group stages in South Africa in June.

Only a late penalty save from goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki spared Japan further embarrassment in Tokyo where swathes of empty seats told their own story.

"If we win the next two games we can win the title," said Okada. "We need to reflect on what's going wrong and find a way to score goals."

World Cup-bound South Korea were beginning the defence of their East Asian title against Hong Kong in Tokyo later on Sunday.