Japanese Team Sparkles in World Youth Championship
June 1, 1999
For some three decades, Japan's performance on the world football (soccer) stage has been disappointing to its fans. But in April 1999 Japanese football seemed to turn the corner when the young members of the under-20 national team, who are expected to form the core of Japan's program leading up to and during the 2002 World Cup, finished a strong second in the World Youth Championship held in Nigeria.
Young Squad Brings Home the Silver
In the World Cup tournament held in France in 1998 Japan tasted bitter defeat, losing all three of its preliminary group games. Those matches seemed to show that the Japanese football program still had a long way to go to close the gap with the rest of the world. But now the youth team has demonstrated that the gap might not be so wide after all. Previously Japan's most outstanding performance in an international tournament had been back in 1968, when it won the bronze medal at the Mexico City Olympics. Differences in age and other factors aside, this year's youth team's achievement in finishing second in the World Youth Championship is the best so far for Japanese football.
Ready to Lead the Way
Japan's professional football league, the J. League, is marking its sixth season this year, having kicked off on May 15, 1993. After an initial boom, the J. League's popularity seems to have dropped off a little in recent years; but the national youth team's victories have brought back some much-needed pride and hope for the future. Frenchman Philippe Troussier, the team's coach, echoed these expectations when he commented: "We have opened a road toward the 2002 World Cup." If Japanese football can build on the achievements of its youth team and continue to grow, then it might well give its fans plenty to cheer about when the first World Cup of the twenty-first century rolls around.
Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.