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Japan Runs Into End of the Road, 1-0

World Cup: Co-host country ousted, coach resigns after loss to Turkey in second round.

June 19, 2002|MIKE PENNER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a span of 90 rain-soaked minutes Tuesday, Japan lost its spot in the World Cup, its head-to-head competition with co-host South Korea and its soccer coach.

Hours before South Korea advanced to the quarterfinals with its upset victory over Italy, Japan went out in the second round, losing to Turkey, 1-0, before 45,000 disappointed supporters in Miyagi.

One loss led to another, with Philippe Troussier, the Frenchman who had coached Japan to its first World Cup victories, resigning his position immediately after the match.

"This great Japanese adventure is now over," a tearful Troussier said. "Today, I was proud to be their trainer and to have worn the Japanese shirt for four years."

Japan, winner of Group H, was considered the favorite over Group C runner-up Turkey, which began the match with a lineup depleted by suspensions and injuries. But the Turks, who gave Brazil a scare in their tournament-opening 2-1 defeat, got a 12th-minute goal from Umit Davala and protected it with relentless defending.

"Turkish people like a tough atmosphere," Turkey Coach Senol Gunes said. "We came together and produced our best football. These things never affect us, and perhaps our opponents weren't aware of this."

Turkey advances to a most improbable quarterfinal pairing against Senegal. That match will be played Saturday in Osaka.

During group play, Japan's full-field attacking strategy helped masked defensive deficiencies that were exposed and exploited by Turkey. First, in the 12th minute, defender Koji Nakata needlessly conceded a corner. Then goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki wandered off his line and was beaten inside the near post by Davala's header from a corner by Ergun Penbe.

Despite the loss, Troussier declared the tournament a success for Japanese soccer.

"I say bravo to this Japanese team," he said. "I would tell the Japanese players to believe in their potential and their capacity to succeed. They have proved they can take on the top teams in the world and there is some recognition in European football now of our players."

Gunes said the Japanese team "should not be sad because they have done a tremendous job in the last four years." He added the Turks "also represent Japan now," which, though a nice gesture, is not quite the result Japan wanted to take from its first appearance in the World Cup's round of 16.

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