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Overseas Weekend Wrap-up
Okubo's Goal

Last week I briefly mentioned Yoshito Okubo scored his first goal of the season in Mallorca's league game against Deportivo -- I wanted to follow up with a description of the goal and video. He got his first start in seven games, and his header goal came just after the second half began. He also contributed to the second goal by playing post and allowing an open shot for his teammate. >>Click for video of goal against Deportivo

A Swiss Kiss of Life for Koji

Koji Nakata is set to sign with Swiss league's FC Basel 1893, only technicalities such as a final medical check remain before an official announcement is expected to be made. The deal will keep him there for the remainder of the season, ending in mid-May.

It has been an excruciating season for Nakata in his freshman year abroad. Having been swept into Marseille by former manager Troussier after leaving his former J club Kashima Antlers high and dry, Nakata failed to impress in his first few forays in the Ligue Un. The debut in the snow, the own-goal... and then when Troussier got the axe, Nakata was pretty much kept off the pitch; he played in only ten games, of which only 4 were in league games. In this past month, he has been relegated to playing with the youth team at Marseille, and has been actively seeking a new place to call home.

There was some talk of offers from Belgium, Israel, Ukraine, and even a possibility that Kashima would rescue him if all else failed. Koji had his heart set on staying inside Europe, and though Marseille were gung ho about giving him to Israel's Betar Jerusalem, Koji said no; and no again to an offer coming from the Ukraine league. This did not put him in good standing at Marseille, and the club by then he was forced to train on his own after being taken out of training sessions with the amateur/reserve team. So this transfer inked just days before the January window closed is a kiss of life and will mean an extension of his adventures abroad.

Having just last week lost defender Patrick Mueller in a transfer to Olympique Lyon, Basel suddenly found themselves in need of a replacement. Though Mueller plays more on the right, and Nakata specializes on the left, he flew to Spain where the team was training over the break to try out. After spending three days being tested there, Basel were still not sure and asked that Marseille allow Koji to return for a few more training sessions and some practice games. However, Marseille refused, and for a period it seemed Basel would drop their pursuit.

Basel is currently at the top of the table. Their team includes several Swiss internationals, and is a Big Club with a high quality of play. Nakata has lost a lot of play time this season, and the most important thing for him now is to gain his new teammates' trust and play in as many games as possible.

>>Visit FC Basel website

Celtic 3-3 Dundee U

Shunsuke Nakamura's fever/virus has been nagging him for a couple weeks now, but despite that (and the fact that he performed poorly in last week's match with Motherwell) he was on the pitch at the start of this game. A signature freekick from Nakamura on the right of the box towards goal met nicely with Hartson's head for a lead at 9 minutes. Celtic were able to widen the lead 3-1 by the time Shunsuke left the pitch at 72 minutes, but then things fell apart in defense. A full three points was the minimum that supporters demanded from this encounter against the ninth placed club, but one point was all they could go home with.

These days you can tell when Nakamura is having a 100% day or not by the amount of scrappiness he can bring to his defensive contributions. From his display this day, it seemed he did not have any energy reserves to deal with areas outside of setting up plays: his free kick assist and his set up through pass for another goal, in addition to a couple other very close set piece opportunities. >>video of assist FK

Nakamura posted a message about last week's Motherwell game (rough translation): "This round was an away game at Motherwell. During practice the day before the game, the coach told me to to play on the left. I went into the game having visualized different plays, but I wasn't able to bring those visualizations to reality. My combination with left sideback Camara was bad, and I personally made a lot of errors. I did nothing for the team in terms of creating the game. After I was substituted out, the team got two more goals and we won 3-1. For me individually I was very disappointed in my performance. I hope to be able to contribute to the team's win in the next game. First I have to get healthy and gradually improve my condition."

Le Mans 1-1 Toulouse

Daisuke Matsui played the full match against the 15th placed Toulouse in his ninth consecutive start. Though he could not repeat last round's performance of two goals, he was able to contribute by assisting in the equalizer at 23 minutes. Matsui sent a cross from the right for Tulio's header. The second half's action was kept mostly in midfield with both teams trying to control, and the only real chance for Le Mans was in injury time when Fischer was denied by the bar. >>Video of Matsui assist

Hamburg SV 1-2 Nurnberg

Could it be that the curious rift between HSV manager Doll and Naohiro Takahara may be on the way to mending itself? Takahara had been trying for most of the season so far to control and downplay his frustrations about not being used. However in December Takahara was clearly beyond fed up, and commented that of all the possible outcomes to the transfer issue, the possibility of remaining at Hamburg was least likely. There was no mistaking, he wanted out.

But as Frankfurt began actively pursuing Takahara, and Takahara become more vociferous about wanting out, Doll started to make comments admitting he was in the wrong with regard to not giving Takahara an equal opportunity to prove himself on the pitch during the first half of the season. He added that the Japanese forward put in a solid performance during practices, and that he expects Taka to contribute to the team in the remaining games.

This change of tune may have been a direct result to the difficulty Hamburg was having in finding forwards to transfer in over the break. But even last week, after they were able get Ailton on rental, Doll was heard saying that even with a new forward he expected Takahara to stay.

And this weekend, Takahara got his first start since October 2, 2005. Though the setting was in his favor -- he scored two goals at Nurnberg less than a year ago and has won the three games he's played them -- the match turned out to be a frustrating one for the entire team.

Though Takahara was involved in some good chances, he could not find the much needed goal. One cross from Mahadavikia at 18 minutes gave Taka a great opportunity for a shot but the ball went straight at the keeper. Overall though he looked fit and sharp.

From the start of the game, though, Hamburg looked quite awkward. Nurnberg's pesky and persistent marking denied Doll's men any freedom to dribble or pass, and the ref was busy calling fouls and handing out cards as the ball failed to settle. HSV's passing and positioning was poor, and by the second half they gave Nurnberg the momentum to finish them off.

Hamburg does have some excuse however. New acquisition fw Ailton was okay but obviously needs to work on communication with his new mates -- he got caught too many times off sides. And De Jong, who just joined the team a day before the match, looked heavy and gave the opponents a convenient hole to exploit. Doll will need to work on bringing the team together, and soon -- how he will treat Taka in the coming months is anyone's guess. The important thing is for the "Sushi Bomber" (who thinks of these nicknames?) to get goals goals goals.

Bolton 1-0 Arsenal (FA Cup)

Hidetoshi Nakata played the full game in this upset of last season's title holder. Hide started in left midfield and switched to a more defensive position in the second half.
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ahgg, can't watch Okubo's goal...the page seems to be down at the moment.

Anyways, its nice to c Nakata back on the field after all the hard comments given to him by the manager^^
2006/01/29(日) 18:33:47 | URL | Nak #-[ Edit]
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