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By ESPN Staff

Japan coach Okada calls for 'total football'

TOKYO, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Japan coach Takeshi Okada is planning to follow the Dutch blueprint of 'total football' in a bid to make an impact at the 2010 World Cup.

Okada, who led Japan to their first World Cup finals appearance in 1998, took charge again last month after Bosnian Ivica Osim suffered a stroke and fell into a coma.

'If I had the same players as (Arsenal manager) Arsene Wenger, gave them the same instructions and training, there is no guarantee it would work,' Okada told a Japanese newspaper.

'But in terms of technique and work rate, Japan are world-class, so I want to build a team that plays in a way that can make an impact at the World Cup.'

The 51-year-old added: 'I think perhaps Japan can play similar to Holland's 'total football' and dramatically switch their tactics. I go to work with that dream.'

Okada's side begin their qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa next month with a home match against Thailand in Group Two, which also includes Bahrain and Oman.

'The qualifiers are important of course but it's a comparatively easy group,' Okada told Japan's Sports Hochi daily.

'That's not to say it will be easy.'

Despite grand ambitions of his own, Okada refused to criticise Brazilian Zico, who oversaw Japan's meek exit from the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

'Japan hit a wall at the 2006 World Cup after a rapid improvement,' said Okada. 'It's very difficult to sustain that rate of growth.'

Okada first took charge of Japan in 1997, salvaging the side's qualifying campaign for the finals in France the following year after previous coach Shu Kamo was fired.

However, Japan's World Cup debut ended in three successive defeats and Okada was replaced by Frenchman Philippe Troussier.

'If you build a wall with no reinforcement it will fall down,' said Okada. 'Japan did improve a lot very quickly but there is still room for improvement.'