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We're a shambles, fumes Japan's Nakata

Written by: Staff

BONN, Germany, June 5 (Reuters) Japan's Hidetoshi Nakata has labelled Zico's side a shambles a week before their opening World Cup game against Australia.

Nakata blasted his team mates for lacking heart after yesterday's stuttering 1-0 win over Malta in their final warm-up game.

''We got nothing from the game,'' fumed Nakata. ''It doesn't matter what sort of football you play -- unless you run and work for each other it's pointless. Those are basic things.'' The 29-year-old midfielder has already complained that the atmosphere within the Japanese squad was ''too friendly'' and said the Asian champions were ''not ready'' for the World Cup.

Shunsuke Nakamura, the only player who has dared to cross swords with Nakata, suggested his fellow midfielder might want to lighten up. Nakata has clearly ignored the advice.

''We're hardly at the stage where we can suddenly change things,'' Nakata told reporters. ''What we're missing is the heart.'' Japan's most recognisable player is no stranger to controversy and was involved in frequent run-ins with former coach Philippe Troussier before the 2002 World Cup.

Nakata was influential in last week's morale-boosting 2-2 draw with World Cup hosts Germany but the mood in the Japan camp has changed after injuries to key players.

Front-line strikers Naohiro Takahara and Atsushi Yanagisawa are both carrying knocks and wing back Akira Kaji looks doubtful for Japan's Group F opener on June 12.

Japan are also drawn alongside Croatia and tournament favourites Brazil in a challenging first round.

Reserve striker Keiji Tamada scored Japan's winner against Malta and sought to defuse a potential rift in the squad during the countdown to the clash with Australia.

''We're in a strange country where we don't speak the language so it hasn't really hit us that we're at the World Cup,'' said Tamada.

''But we'll be ready.'' REUTERS PM PC1708

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