MORI, Japan, June 1 (AFP)
Japan coach Philippe Troussier briefly displayed two players at the centre of health doubts, but mainly kept Japan under wraps Saturday ahead of their opening World Cup clash with Belgium.
Feyenoord midfielder Shinji Ono and Gamba Osaka defender Tsuneyoshi Miyamoto were out front when the full 23-strong squad exercised for around 20 minutes.
Ono, 22, the lynchpin in Japan's midfield along with playmaker and Parma supersub Hidetoshi Nakata, has been treated in hospital for what football officials insisted were stomach pains due to fatigue.
Miyamoto, who broke his nose in a closed training match with a local university on Thursday, appeared with his face heavily bandaged.
But the media were then rushed out of the training ground at Japan's base camp here and Japanese Football Association press officers refused to comment on what happened afterwards in an evening session which lasted about two hours.
Troussier has not spoken to the press since Japan drew 1-1 against Sweden in a warm-up friendly in Tokyo a week ago, amid allegations that he was nervous ahead of the battle against the favoured Red Devils on Tuesday.
Ono, who resumed training with a separate menu on Friday, seemed relaxed as he started the session on a passing routine with Portsmouth reserve goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi.
But it was not known if Ono, who was reportedly taking medicine to treat appendicitis, undertook the same programme as the rest of the team.
The Japanese squad, aiming not to avoid becoming the first World Cup hosts to go out in the first round, have been staying at a traditional-style Japanese inn on a hill and kept away from the media.
Former Bolton reserve Akinori Nishizawa, part of Japan's struggling strikeforce, who has recovered from appendix surgery four weeks ago, said Saturday: "We need to be quick in our attack against such tall opponents as Belgium."
Arsenal reserve Junichi Inamoto said earlier, "Belgium have many tall players so we are aiming to hit them quickly in attack."
"We are working on getting in low, quick crosses," he added
World Cup Preview: Japan-Belgium
Japan - Belgium | News Archive
Ono & Nakata: instrumental to Japan's chances (Allsport)
06/03/2002. Belgium will again be content to progress to the next round in this 6th consecutive World Cup. It is a sort of record, as no country achieved this before through qualification only, without hosting the competition or defending the trophy. This accomplishment must be followed, in every Rode Duivel's mind, by a good performance in Korea/Japan.
Coach Robert Waseige will however have to put up with a number of annoying forfeitures. This will have consequences on his tactical formation, as Belgium should now go for a more daring 3-5-2 than the usual 4-5-1 prised by the Liege-born entraîneur. Also, Belgium are aware that this match with Japan is of crucial importance. The group's three main teams (Belgium, Japan and Russia) seem to be on the same level and will have therefore to make a difference in direct confrontations to qualify for the next round.
Restless Japan will be extremely nervous to go into the World Cup in front of their own public. Touted by some as the World Cup's possible surprise team, the Nippon team does not seem to have had the right approach, with mystery and controversy rife in these past few days. It all started with the incommunicado procedures about Ono's physical conditions. The Feyenoord midfielder spent a couple of days in hospital with a more serious disease than the mere "bellyache" described by Japanese officials.
And there is Philippe Troussier... How can you expect the team to be at peace with itself behind the blanket of secrecy laid by the French coach? "No comment" was Troussier's answer when it came to publish the squad days before the May 26 deadline. Needless to say he refused to unveil his starting lineup against the Rode Duivels... It makes you wonder why the information-savvy Japanese do not like him...
Belgium are in the middle of a serious defensive crisis with two key players out. Glen De Boeck still has some chances to make it, while Nico Van Kerckhoven could be sidelined for the rest of the competition due to a suspected ligament injury. Veterans Danny Boffin and Derby's Branko Strupar are both fit after shaking off minor injuries. Wesley Sonck is almost sure to start upfront, with the support of fit-again Marc Wilmots and Gert Verheyen acting on the right wing. The possible three-man defence should be composed of Jacky Peeters, Timmy Simons and Glen De Boeck (or Eric Deflandre). Despite reports stating Waseige opting for veteran Van Meir occupuying a central position, those three should get the nod. A flatback four with Bart Goor in the left back position with the three man mentioned above is not to be ruled out.
Japan have kept their formation under wraps to put up a surprise attack - one of the country's specialty. However things look pretty clear for Troussier, who is almost certain to do without Ono and Miyamoto, who broke his nose in training. Japan's biggest problem will be getting the goals, with not many candidates to satisfy their needs up front.
Belgium: De Vlieger; Deflandre, De Boeck, Peeters, Goor; Simons, Vanderhaeghe, Walem, Verheyen, Wilmots; Sonck
Japa: to be announced
Belgium: Marc Wilmots - His recent injury should not prevent the industrious Schalke attacking midfielder from shining on the World stage one last time. He even has the chance to become his country's top goalscorer ever if he hits five during the WC before going in international retirement.
Japan: Hidetoshi Nakata - Who else? Even though they were about to snub him after a second successive disappointing season in Serie A, Japan still need Nakata like motorists need gas. He is the only one among Troussier's men to influence a game single-handedly.
Belgium: Eric Van Meir - It makes you wonder why Robert Waseige brought him to the Belgium squad if he is - again - short of condition. More a liability to Belgium than anything else.
Japan: Shinji Ono - Just a bellyache? Ask the doc to know where to stand about the Feyenoorder. Japan could be missing him much in midfield where Belgium look set to impose a strong physical challenge.
I cheered for Japan, they played more attractive and really wanted to win here. Belgium are more Stabile and play quite boring too(not strange with Waseige). Japan should have got their goal allowed cause it's wasn't a foul, but Belgium perhaps should have got a penalty aswell. Fair result, but watch out for Japan they play great football.
It was one of the nicest games so far, surely one pf the most unpredictable and exciting! I am impressed by the Japanese, I heard they were good but I have to say that they have quite a good team there! They lack only the predatorial instict (with the exception of Inamoto ) to be an even better team.
Finally, that wasn't a penalty in the dying minutes. The Belgian played dove right before he was touched by the Japanese keeper.