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Thomson backing Japan to cause World Cup stir

© Reuters 2002

By Alastair Himmer

TOKYO, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Former Australia and Sanfrecce Hiroshima manager Eddie Thomson is backing co-hosts Japan to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup this summer.

The 54-year-old Scot, who left Japan in December 2000 after four years in charge of J-League club Hiroshima, said on Saturday that the Japanese have "nothing to fear" from their Group H opponents Belgium, Russia and Tunisia.

"Russia aren't demolishing teams the way they used to and Belgium are nothing to be frightened of. They've not got any superstars," Thomson told Reuters by telephone from Sydney.

Thomson, Australia coach from 1990-1996, believes Japan coach Philippe Troussier will have no excuse if he fails to guide his team into the second round of the World Cup with the quality of players at his disposal.

"Yes, (Hidetoshi) Nakata and (Shinji) Ono are great players, but there are heaps of Nakatas and Onos in Japan," said Thomson.

"And you are going to see more of these players coming through after the World Cup."

Highly Regarded
Thomson, who will work as a technical consultant to FIFA at the World Cup, also believes co-hosts South Korea can advance from a tough Group D which features highly regarded Portugal, Poland the United States.

"The Koreans have got more than an even chance with the home support. If they play like they can play, closing opponents down and harassing, they can qualify for the second round," he said.

Currently residing in Sydney, Thomson has been approached by Scottish clubs Aberdeen and Hearts but said he would relish the challenge of another spell in charge of a J-League club.

"Look at Tokyo Verdy - good players and loads of potential. They should be winning trophies but they need organising," he said.

Short-term pain, Thomson insisted, was necessary for clubs such as Verdy and Urawa Reds, who both underachieved again in 2001, if they want to narrow the gap on Japan's top two clubs, Kashima Antlers and Jubilo Iwata.

"You can't be successful without a nasty streak. There will be tough times at first, but you need a system and I am a believer in building the team from the bottom up," he said.

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