Vahid Halilhodzic was resigned to defeat as he spoke to media on Thursday night following Japan’s 2-1 home loss to UAE in their 2018 FIFA World Cup AFC Final Qualifying opener.
Ahmed Khalil struck twice from set-pieces after Keisuke Honda had opened the scoring, providing the Samurai Blue the worst possible start in their bid to appear in Russia.
And Halilhodzic believes the slump in front of fans at Saitama Stadium reflects the nation’s current state of readiness and wants to see more determination against Thailand on Tuesday,
“I’m stunned. This result represents our current strength. We have to accept it,” the coach told reporters. “There were high expectations of this team.
“We worked hard in training and prepared, but we weren’t able to play to people’s expectations. I wanted the players to move the ball faster, but we were unable to do so. Our opponents played more realistically.
“Even with a tough result like this one, there were some positives. But before the match, I predicted that we wouldn’t be able to play at our best.
“I think the players will be able to recover physically ahead of the second match, and we’ll be able to play faster. I’m going to warn the players that they need to defend better and not give up fouls.
“We have a lot to correct, but we’re constantly pursuing our ideal and I believe we’re playing better.
“We need to be mentally stronger against Thailand, and to do that we have to overcome our fatigue and look for three points. I haven’t given up hope at all.”