Japan football official apologizes to fans

The head of the Japan Football Association on Tuesday apologized to Japanese fans for the team's 3-1 loss to Australia in its World Cup opening match.

"First of all, I'd like to apologize to our supporters," JFA president Saburo Kawabuchi said Tuesday at Japan's training camp. "It was a disappointing loss but that's soccer and you have to move on."

Japan looked set to take three points in Monday's Group F match in Kaiserslautern but gave up three late goals in the final minutes of play.

Japan's substitutes worked out Tuesday and may see some playing time when Japan faces Croatia on June 18 in Nuremberg. The starting lineup was given the day off.

"The substitutes looked a little frustrated on the bench yesterday," added Kawabuchi. "If they get in the Croatia game, I'm sure they will perform well."

Japan forward Atsushi Yanagiswa, who is coming off an injury to his right foot, was ineffective in the Australia match and could be replaced for the Croatia game.

Forwards Keiji Tamada, Masashi Oguro or Seiichiro Maki could get the call from Japan coach Zico.

Defender Akira Kaji, who was injured in a tuneup match against Germany on May 30, is expected to be fit for the next game.

Despite the loss, Kawabuchi said the team remains optimistic.

"At the 2005 Confederations Cup we lost our first match to Mexico and then came back to tie Brazil," he said. "I reminded Zico of that today and we're hoping for the same turn of events here."

A loss to Croatia would end Japan's hopes of advancing to the round of 16. Japan's final first round game is on June 22 against defending champions Brazil.

"The next step is the game against Croatia and that's all we're focusing on," Kawabuchi said. "The players know what they need to do," reports AP.

O.Ch.