Japan soccer coach Takeshi Okada expects his national team to thrive under the pressure of playing in a tough group at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Japan was drawn last Friday in Group E with the seeded Netherlands; Denmark, a team that topped its European qualifying group; and Cameroon, which is expected to thrive on its home continent. But Okada was not downhearted.
"The pressure gives us the opportunity to prove ourselves," Okada said Thursday. "If you don't have pressure, you will stay weak. The pressure makes you stronger."
The Japanese national team, known as the Blue Samurai for the colour of their uniforms, made it to the second round of the 2002 World Cup, which they co-hosted with South Korea, but failed to win a game in their other appearances in 1998 and 2006.
However, Okada has predicted his team can reach the quarter-finals in South Africa.
Forward Shinji Okazaki, who has 15 goals in 20 games for Japan, said Japan will have to play at its best to get through the first round.
"The coach has said we'll have to fight as if our lives depended on getting through," Okazaki said. "That's pretty much the way it is for us."