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Japan Football: Zaccheroni, Samurai Blue, and general J chatter
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And so we go on...
Oh, what a truly disappointing end of the story. I don't think it has really hit me yet, the reality that it is all over.

I've been also disappointed by the fact that I have been too busy to relax and really enjoy the World Cup. The way the schedule and time difference work out, most of the games are so late at night, and even those games I've taped I will have to wait a while to watch. I know I have been horrible about updating this blog, but maybe it was for the best... you all would be reading a lot of very frustrated entries!

As for our boys in blue -- well, their performance in this World Cup begs several questions.

- scoring. Japan really needs to develop true strikers
- coach. What kind of coach does Japan need?
- youth. With many of the players now in their late twenties and early thirties, it will be necessary to replace with a younger and inexperienced generation very quickly.
- style. Does the Brazilian style of football fit Japan's abilities?
- strategy. Was it too early to put together such a defense-light team?
- physical. Both in terms of strength but also in terms of stature -- our defenders were completely dwarfed by the opponents.
- conditioning. This team was out of top form going into the tournament -- too many injuries to too many players.
- mental. This was a relatively cool team, lacking in some of the emotional gusto of previous generations. What kind of personality do we want out there on the pitch?

- captain. I will be the first to admit, Miyamoto absolutely croaked out there. He is one to be extremely sensitive to details, and tends to get obsessed with the details. He fell apart this month -- something we caught a glimpse of during the first game against North Korea last year. On the other hand, someone like Hide Nakata, who often took the captain's armband in prior years, also had trouble bringing the team together, though he tried many tactics somewhere in there he lacked the natural power to bring the team closer together.

For now, I will leave these issues for you all to debate at will. Now, it's back to the drawing board for the JFA.

They announced a couple months ago that they would not begin serious consideration for the next National Team coach until July. Some people like the idea of going back to a Japanese coach for reasons of communication and commitment to Japanese football. Some people want to see another European style coach in the driver's seat. Some people don't care where the coach comes from just as long as he has a clear analytical and strategic mind, something more concrete than what Zico's philosophy offered.

The JFA had said last month or so that they intend to stick with a Zico-type philosophy for the future of the national team -- in other words, they want someone who will allow the players a degree of independence and creativity on the pitch as well as bringing to the team the intangible qualities of a classy attitude as athletes.

I really enjoyed reading everyone's comments on this blog -- it felt good to finally hear some of your opinions and hear how others felt. Thank you all so much for visiting and debating and exchanging information!!

I will continue to look back at this team as the months pass, and perhaps come to some conclusion about what we can take from this experience. I have to admit, it was a bumpy and strange ride, but aren't they all...!
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Australia 3-1 Japan
An absolutely unforgivable turn of events.

All of you have seen the game, so I won't go into detail. But here are the highlights:

Kawaguchi saved us by barely a thread on numerous occasions.

The team was not playing nearly good enough.

The press was not working.

The team did not take the shots properly or failed to attempt shots at all.

The sides barely sent in any good crosses.

The team still has problems keeping the lead when they score fairly early in the game. It has occured often, they give up the lead towards the end. Sometimes they fight back at the last moment, but all in all, it feels like they are still shaky when they have the lead.

Tsuboi's early exit from the game (injury) was an unexpected disadvantage. It must feel surreal for Moniwa, who only a week or so ago was basking under the sun in Hawaii thinking his chance to be part of a WC squad had slipped through his fingers.


But most of all,

most of all,


and really I think this is the part that really makes me look back at this match with supreme irritation:

Zico's lack of logic in substitutions reared its ugly head.

In past games, the team was able to eke out wins despite the fact that Zico's player substitutions were very late or made for or with (what I believe) were inappropriate players.

I love this team, and I do believe in Zico's basic philosophy that Japan can only get better if they are given the opportunity to grow into a bigger pair of football boots.

However, the players were obviously exhausted in the last thirty minutes in the surprisingly high temperatures. And aside from the substitution made when Tsuboi was injured (I think he pulled his thigh muscle), Zico refused to budge. When he did make a move, way too late, it was to insert Ono for Yanagisawa.

No offense to Ono fans (because I love the guy), but he ain't the player to put in at a time like that. Not only is he hardly dynamic on defense, but he isn't particularly fast or strong. Inamoto should have gone it at the very least -- Ina being one of those scrappy players who times tackles and slides really well.

With only one forward left, it set the offense/defense balance off. And given the danger that Australia presented for most of the match, it was the wrong message to send.

When Zico did decide to put in a forward, it was Oguro with only 3 minutes remaining. Sure, Oguro has played the last-minute savior in a number of memorable matches, the odds that he could pull off another in this game with the team playing rather poorly -- well, that was unfair to expect of Oguro.

The team did not play well. But my irritation tonight is at Zico. He has always made it clear that his care for the players is utmost -- but there are times like tonight, when Nakamura was making mistakes (he passed to the Australian forwards near our penalty area), looked too tired to contribute to defense, and lacked quality on the few cross opportunities he got towards the end. It's true, Nakamura has the kind of one-chance magic that one would always like to keep on the pitch, but in general he should have been rested and would have not contributed to keeping the 1-0 lead towards the end.

I'm not sure I make any sense, but I have to go to sleep (early day tomorrow), so I will end here. I'd love to hear what you all thought about the game.

This puts Japan in an impossibly difficult situation going into the next two games -- Croatia are only going to be taller and even more rough on plays; and Brazil...well, is Brazil.

I'll post any follow up news between now and the Croatia game. I just hope I can pull myself out of bed tomorrow -- the depression is probably going to make me want to call in sick at work!
Tonight's the Night
theforwards.jpg...all we can do now is pray and send our Samurai spirit from around the world!

Hi everyone, sorry I have not been able to post new entries after the two friendlies last week. I have been running on very little sleep, and was not able to do the games justice with the little time.

However, all that's in the past is now in the past. The team has had time to practice, they know what their strengths and weaknesses are, and they are intelligent, creative and flexible enough to create their own Destiny.

I hope all of you will be able to watch the game live -- I love the World Cup, it is such a glorious event. Because of work, I have barely been able to watch any of the other games (I've only seen part of two games but my brother is taping some of the games for me, so at least I can watch them later). But I insisted on scheduling my work so that I left the office earlier today! Yay.

Good content, good finishes, inspiring football, and of course a Win. I look especially to the forwards (four of them pictured above) to do their job and get the goals when the chances come.

Wherever you are in the world, I know we are going to have a good time tonight.
Bonn Camp Update
6.02.06_rain.jpgNot too much info coming in from the Bonn Camp the past couple days. The team seems to be going through the practices in pretty good shape.

There was one piece of news I forgot to mention previously. Nakamura had gone to the hospital along with Kaji after the Germany game. Apparently during the game one of the German players had stomped on his toe(s), and after the game his toes were quite swollen. Since Nakamura was back at practice the next day, I guess it wasn't too bad.

The weather has been quite unstable in Bonn, with low temperatures and scattered showers and even some snowfall! The players are visibly shivering during their post-practice sessions, and what worries me is if the weather suddenly gets very hot once the WC starts -- the team won't be used to the heat.

The practices have been mostly minigames of 6-vs-6 in groups of sixes, shooting practices, set piece/crosses strategy on both defense and offense.

Teruyuki Moniwa safely landed in Germany on the 1st and joined the practice the next day (photo below left).

Teruyuki Moniwa arrives at his first WC squad practice Oguro shoots while teammates look on


Changing Plans
Hi All, thanks for keeping the comments section active in the previous posts! Any links and news info you want to share please go ahead and write in... I always have a great time reading what you all have to say.

Unfortunately, I am still working and will not be able to do the Germany game match report until Monday.

Sunday night will be the Malta game. So Monday (which I have off after a weekend of working..grrrr) I will do a joint report on both games.

I also have to finish populating the table of our 23 men, and before out first WC game I will be posting an entry on Zico Japan's style/philosophy.

My aim is to have all this done before the first game against Australia -- after that it's going to all be about ENJOYING watching the World Cup!!

Sorry for the delay, guys. I will try and catch up ASAP.
Thanks Everyone!
Hi all,
Just checking in to say hello and to let you know (for those of you who were not able to watch the Germany vs Japan game) that I will post a match review on Friday night.

Thanks to Otto, Nak, Akira, Sickemrex, and Ami for their comments in the previous post; and for >>posting the Video Links to highlights! I appreciate it!

Makoto Tanaka has returned to Japan and was greeted at the airport by the media wanting to get a comment -- Tanaka said that he was very disappointed that he had to leave the team like this so suddenly, but that the team is in good condition and that he wants them to aim for the top in Germany. When asked about Moniwa, he replied that Moniwa has been with the team for a while now and that he should not have any trouble joining the squad. The decision for Tanaka to leave the squad was made by Zico; Zico commented that he felt that Tanaka would not be ready for World Cup play in time, and that though he was extremely sad to have to make the decision, he felt it would not be right for them to keep Tanaka given he would not be at 100% in time for the World Cup.

Teruyuki Moniwa was in Hawaii with his family when he got the call-up. Moniwa immediately flew back to the Japan and is hopping on a flight to Germany today. FIFA will officially recognize the player change after the doctor's report on Makoto Tanaka has been reviewed and confirmed. Hopefully there won't be any trouble there. Moniwa was extremely disappointed when he found out that he did not make the squad during the first announcement of the team; but he is revved to go now. I don't know at what type of fitness level he is right now, and his major concerns will include both improving fitness and getting a clear understanding of the team's defensive strategies.

The Next Day

The day after the game against Germany, Zico and his men were back at practice. Those who started in the game sat out the morning practice. The remaining 11 bench players turned up for a session going over formation strategy and the usual shooting practice.

In the afternoon, the rest of the team returned to practice. However, Kaji (who sprained his ankle), Takahara (knee pain), Yanagisawa (knee pain) and Nakamura (bruised leg) remained at the hotel. Everyone except Kaji is expected to be back for today's practice. The doctors have taken xrays of Kaji's foot and no bones seem to be broken though there is a bit of swelling -- they hope to have him start rehabilitation in a few days. The afternoon session consisted of a minigame using a portion of the pitch, followed by shooting practice.
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