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Injury Time: Yoshi Breaks Finger
The evolutionary tale of Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi is an interesting footnote in the history of the current JapanNT members. It is a well-known fact that until recent years, he was a football-only health fiend. Every mistake took on the weight of the world, and every gram of weight he put on was kawaguchi.jpgsomething to be worked off by missing dinner and exercising instead. It was said that he used to have an aura of unapproachability by his teammates, and if you ever wanted to locate him the best place to look was near the scale. There is a legendary video tape that sometimes gets replayed during profile clips on Kawaguchi where you see him throwing the biggest fit after a game and has to be calmed and escorted to a room by staff. His anger and frustration are always toward himself, and I suppose he was trying to work himself up to a standard of perfection by a form of self-flagellation.[cont'd]
It was during his time at a Danish club team Nordjaelland (I still can't pronounce this), that he befriended the goolkeeper coach. Probably the biggest advice his coach gave him was to relax and enjoy life a little more, that there was more to life than football, and that there were things to be gained from spending time away from football. We saw this dramatic change became more and more visible after Narazaki was injured during the England game, and Kawaguchi defended the goal for the rest of the year. Of course, Asia Cup 04 allowed us to see the NT at their most physically and psychologically ragged. But here was a new man, a Kawaguchi whose face was benevolent and calm, who only raised his voice to raise the spirit of the team during a game. It was also said that during dinnertime, the once unapproachable Kawaguchi was often fondly teased by his ko-hai (younger teammates). He has even admitted to not watching his weight like before.

I believe his return to the J-League (Jubilo Iwata) was in large part to the influence of the NT goalkeeper coach, Cantarelli. In old interviews, he has repeatedly stressed that the most important thing for goalies is to be able to play in games constantly. With WC around the corner, I'm sure Kawaguchi was more than psyched to get back to regular playing, help the NT top the qualifiers, and get prepared for Germany. I was also surprised to hear of his recent marriage, as he had always given off stoic bachelor vibes.

Kawaguchi is also known to have a certain maverick quality about him that perhaps influenced Troussier's decision to use Narazaki during the WC02 instead. Kawaguchi's heart/spirit/emotions can be a true asset to the team and for himself at times, but sometimes you wonder when it gets in the way. You cannot hate him for it (he is a passionate athlete afterall), but it leaves a margin for error that is greater than some would like.

So when the last thing I heard on the news before I went to bed last night was that Kawaguchi had broken his right index finger and basically could not play for a month, I sighed and wondered what had happened. Apparently this occurred during practice, and at first was thought to be a jammed finger. At the end of practice, when the pain had not receded, x-rays were taken. So, I guess we will be seeing Seigo Narazaki in the next games with Iran and Bahrain. Narazaki is of course an equal-quality goalie (some argue more dependable than Kawaguchi), but the defense line will have to reacquaint themselves with his particular style and idiosyncracies.
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