Japan remain mum in runup

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 June, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 June, 1999, 12:00am

A shroud of secrecy marked Japan's arrival for the first round of the Olympic qualifiers as the Asian Group Six favourites snubbed the local press by refusing requests for interviews.

Led by national coach Philippe Troussier, the Japanese boarded their coach at Chek Lap Kok Airport without making a statement.

The players only stopped to sign the occasional autograph for a small group of local Japanese.

The Japanese had a light workout at Siu Sai Wan Stadium yesterday, but the squad again refused requests for interviews.

Japan are hot favourites to beat Hong Kong, Malaysia, Nepal and the Philippines in first-round action of the under-23 tournament, starting on Saturday at Hong Kong Stadium.

The second round of the round-robin tournament will be held in Tokyo the following week.

It is understood that the squad include seven members of the Japanese team who reached April's World Youth Cup final.

The Japanese arrived without 22-year-old star playmaker Hidetoshi Nakata, who has been ordered by Troussier to rest after a demanding campaign with Italian Serie A side Perugia.

In contrasting style, the Philippine national squad arrived yesterday to speak openly on their chances in the tournament.

Led by former Atletico Madrid midfielder Juan Cutillas, now coach of the national squad, the Philippines are clearly here for the experience.

The Philippines open their campaign by taking on Japan on Saturday.

'I have only been [the Philippines] national coach for three months. I would have preferred at least six months with them.

'We lack technical awareness. The squad are made up mostly of university students,' said former Brisbane coach Cutillas.