Tokyo: Japan’s Hidetoshi Nakata was the target of rare criticism from teammate Shunsuke Nakamura after defeat against Mexico, a Japanese newspaper reported on Saturday. Nakamura accused Nakata of drifting out of position during Thursday’s 1-2 defeat by Mexico, according to a sports daily, prompting rumours of a rift between the players.
“Hide drifts forward, so when they attacked us through the middle I had no choice but to drop back,” Nakamura was quoted as saying. “I ran out of steam (doing that) and ended up getting substituted, which was a shame. There are things you can do and things you can’t.”
Nakamura has been given the playmaker role by Japan coach Zico, while Nakata has been ordered to sit deeper. Mexico’s 64th-minute winner through Francisco Fonseca came after Nakata had pushed up to support the attack.
A clearly disgruntled Nakamura had been replaced by Junichi Inamoto five minutes earlier. Fiorentina midfielder Nakata is Japan’s most recognisable player and is rarely criticised by his Japan teammates, coaches or the country’s media. However, he was twice involved in training ground bust-ups with his Japan teammates this year as the pressure to qualify for next year’s World Cup finals began to take its toll.