Toyama, Japan, June 27, 2009 – Japan
go into their sixth match in the World League on Sunday with the
talent to hurt any team but also a fragile mentality that has seen them
lose four of their first five matches.
Against Cuba on Saturday, Japan coach
Tatsuya Ueta once again saw his team get into strong positions, but
fade badly at the end of the sets. In the first set, Japan won only
two of the last seven points, while in the second set they won two of
the last eight. And in a crucial segment towards the end of the third
set, Japan could only grab four out of 12 points.
“At the end of each set, we seem to
have a problem with our mentality,” Ueta admitted. “The players
have to communicate more with each other. We have to be stronger
Tatsuya Fukuzawa was Japan's top scorer
with 16 points – in fact he was the top scorer from both teams –
but Ueta criticized him for poor receiving. Japan's other main
attacker, Kunihiro Shimizu, had a mixed performance, delivering some
decent spikes but suffering several blocks and having a disastrous
Japan captain Daisuke Usami admitted
his team failed to deliver, not only to the fans, but also to their
“During the game, the Japan bench
were giving us advice, but we couldn't carry it out, so we have to
think this and about our mistakes,” he said. “If we had done what
they asked of us, we might have won, so we really have to concentrate
“Compared to our win over Bulgaria,
the team today did not play together well. It's important that we are
all on the same page.”
Ueta noted that the teams in Pool C –
Russia, Cuba, Bulgaria – are exceptionally tough, but it is not the
other teams that are destroying Japan; it's the Japan themselves.
They are failing to deliver the killer blow when they have the
weapons in their hands. Should they find the missing element, then
other teams should watch out.
“I think with a bit more effort Japan
could become a strong team,” Cuba captain Roberlandy Simon said.
“They are really quick and good at defense; they are tough
But no less tough than Cuba. Simon had
a good day, scoring a total of 12 points, but Cuba spread the joy of
scoring around its team. Had 15-year-old Wilfredo Leon been a more
accurate, he could have edged out his teammates as top scorer. As it
is, the 201-cm teenager has awesome talent and will again be a danger
to Japan with his strong serves, rocketing spikes and big blocks (he
was the top blocker on the day for Cuba).
But Simon is not satisfied with his
“I think the team as a whole needs to
raise its level in certain aspects of the game,” he stated.
His coach, Orlando Samuels, agrees:
“Today's game was not so good. Japan
did well but made too many errors, especially service errors. For us,
our receiving was not so good. I told my players to block together
and put pressure on Japan's receiving. Tomorrow, we must improve our
serving and receiving and look to put pressure on Japan.”
To be sure, the pressure will be on the
home team, but Japan's performance on Saturday was marred by errors.
If they can resolve that, Cuba will have a fight on their hands.