Japan's narrow 4-3 Confederations Cup defeat to Italy is a lesson the Blue Samurai should use to toughen up before next year's World Cup, the country's media said Thursday.
The Asian champions, bouncing back from a lopsided 3-0 loss to Brazil in the weekend opener, led 2-0 and flirted with the hope of a shock win over the four-time world champions.
Italy substitute Sebastian Giovinco struck the winner four minutes from time that knocked Japan out of the tournament of continental champions.
"Four days after the disastrous defeat in the Brazil match, Japan launched attacks with restored 'courage' against Italy and then fell," the major newspaper Mainichi Shimbun said in its evening edition Thursday, hours after the narrow defeat.
"Japan need to take advantage of this experience at the World Cup finals," it added.
"Japan looked quite different from four days ago. They stood out with an aggressive attitude," the mass-circulation Yomiuri Shimbun said.
"It was a game that gave Japan much-needed experience ahead of the World Cup one year from now."
"If we led 3-0 or 4-0 in the first half, we could have won," said Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa, who was named the man of the match for scoring Japan's second goal with a swivelling half-volley.
"We could not finish our chances. On the other hand, Italy scored on all their chances," Kagawa told Japanese media.
"If you don't win, it means nothing. Even if you attempt more shots, it doesn't leave you with anything unless you win in the end."
Italy struck back to lead 3-2 but Shinji Okazaki levelled with a thumping header on 69 minutes. Japan then squandered chances when Okazaki hit the post and Kagawa headed the rebound onto the bar.
Japan's veteran midfielder Yasuhito Endo said: "We gave up many goals due to our mistakes. If we don't correct that, we can not make it on the world stage."
"We showed what Japan can do tonight," said Japan's Italian coach, Alberto Zaccheroni. "I thought our performance reached a lot of people. But when you play as well as we did, you expect a different result.
"Italy will punish you if you make mistakes. A great team like them have unparalleled experience. But we're catching up -- fast."