Nakamura: Japan need a proper beating

TOKYO - Celtic's Shunsuke Nakamura has demanded that Japan play more games against the world's top teams - so that they can get thrashed.

The 30-year-old told Japanese media on Wednesday that the three-times Asian champions can only become a force in the world game if they play more meaningful friendlies.

"If we don't suffer against the world's best we won't develop," Nakamura was quoted as saying by Japan's Sports Hochi newspaper.

"It doesn't mean anything that we can beat weak teams in Asia. That won't help us improve. We're in a good position (in 2010 World Cup qualifying) but we have high goals."

Nakamura scored Japan's winner in a 1-0 home victory over Bahrain at the weekend that put the "Blue Samurai" on the brink of a place in the 2010 finals in South Africa.

However, the Celtic midfielder urged Japan coach Takeshi Okada to pick tougher opposition, pointing to a 5-0 drubbing the Japanese took in France before the 2002 World Cup.

The Japanese reached the last 16 of that tournament as co-hosts under Frenchman Philippe Troussier but have pointedly failed to reach those heights since.


"When Troussier was coach got absolutely hammered at Saint-Denis," said Nakamura, who was sensationally dropped from Troussier's World Cup squad in 2002.

"If that hadn't happened I don't know if I would have gone any further myself with the Japan side. If you don't play against the best you have no reference point to help you improve.

"In terms of individual skill and as a team I think we need to suffer from time to time."

Japan and Australia are likely to fill the two automatic qualifying spots in Group One in the final round of Asian World Cup qualifiers.

However, Okada's side, who contest their final three qualifiers in June, have been unimpressive.

Nakamura, who has scored 23 goals in 84 appearances for Japan, insisted there was little time for the national side to improve before the World Cup.

"We need to continue working to raise our level," said Nakamura, a member of the Japan side who were quickly bundled out of the 2006 World Cup in Germany under Brazilian Zico.

"We can only do that by playing quality teams and learning from our mistakes. There's no other way."