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May 14, 2006

'You can't create goalscorers,' laments Zico

TOKYO, May 14 (Reuters) - Japan coach Zico was once again left scratching his head after the Asian champions were held to a 0-0 draw by a below-strength Scotland side on Saturday.

Another anaemic performance from Japan's struggling forwards meant the hosts finished last in the three-team Kirin Cup behind winners Scotland and runners-up Bulgaria.

Japan registered 35 shots on goal in their two matches but had only a deflected goal from World Cup hopeful Seiichiro Maki in the 2-1 defeat by Bulgaria to show for their efforts.

'You can't simply create players whose job it is to score goals,' Zico told reporters. 'It's an instinct you're born with.'

How Zico must wish Japan's goal-shy attackers had it.

The Brazilian names his World Cup squad on Monday and with Japan's opening game against Australia less than a month away he needs an alchemist's touch to solve the problem.

Zico said after the Scotland game that he did not plan to name any standby players, leaving himself little room for error.

'In my mind the final 23 is already decided,' he said. 'I have two players for each position and I have told everyone that I will be picking 23 -- no more, no less.'

DEPRESSINGLY PREDICTABLE

Zico brought in Tatsuhiko Kubo in for Maki against Scotland with depressingly predictable results. Midfielder Shinji Ono and right-back Akira Kaji came closest from open play for Japan.

Zico's side needed to beat Scotland by three goals in their last home game before the World Cup in Germany to lift the Kirin Cup. They never came close in rain-drenched Saitama.

'We kept pushing and overall I thought we played very well,' said Zico, attempting to put a positive spin on the result. 'But it's all about taking your chances and we didn't do it.'

Japan are drawn alongside holders Brazil, Australia and Croatia at the World Cup and take on Guus Hiddink's 'Socceroos' in their Group F opener in Kaiserslautern on June 12.

Zico will have midfielders Hidetoshi Nakata and Shunsuke Nakamura available while the return of strikers Naohiro Takahara and Atsushi Yanagisawa gives the side more options.

Japan reached the last 16 of the World Cup on home soil four years ago under Frenchman Philippe Troussier but will struggle to match that unless Zico can fix his team's attacking woes.

'You need to have the mental composure to look at the goalkeeper before you shoot,' said Zico. 'We need to look at fixing that in practice.'