Okada: Japan will hold own in South Africa

TOKYO - Japan coach Takeshi Okada remains confident his team can upset some of the sport's biggest teams and reach the semi-finals of next year's World Cup despite a tough draw and a terrible record away from home.

The "Blue Samurai" have never won a World Cup finals match on foreign soil and and face a difficult assignment in South Africa next year after drawing the Netherlands, Cameroon and Denmark in Group E.

"The pressure gives us the opportunity to stand tall and prove ourselves," the 53-year-old Okada told Nikkan Sports on Thursday.

"If that pressure is not there you stay weak. This is the first time we have the chance to go to a World Cup and improve. The pressure will make the team strong."

Japan made the second round of the 2002 World Cup, which they co-hosted with South Korea, but failed to win a game in either of their two other appearances, in 1998 and 2006.

Should they survive past the pool stages next year, they face a possible showdown with defending champions Italy but Okada's players are ready for anything.

"The coach told us we would have to fight as if our lives depended on it to get through," said striker Shinji Okazaki, who has scored 15 goals in 20 games for his country.