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Japan Football: Zaccheroni, Samurai Blue, and general J chatter
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Can They Bring It Next Time?
Since this was the last game played with the Europe-based players until the WC squad is announced, I think we were all hoping for a little more from this game -- at least to see the team evolving and moving in a good direction. In terms of preparation, it was important for strengths and weaknesses to be revealed. Bosnia proved to be a very appropriate opponent for our purposes of preparation.

Japan2-2Bosnia----Japan Formation
Takahara - Kubo
Nakamura - Ogasawara
Fukunishi - H.Nakata
Santos - Nakazawa - Miyamoto - Kaji
Kawaguchi
Takahara '45
H.Nakata '90+
Misimovic '56
Spahic '67
Japan Substitutions
Ogasawara> Ono '70
Fukunishi> Inamoto '70
Kubo> Yanagisawa '71
Takahara> Oguro '83

Shunsuke Nakamura post-game comment: "The gap in performance between the first half and second half was way too big... Before we could bring our pace up, our sides got attacked; and when the sides got attacked we got stretched vertically. When the opponent was passing around, our pressure timing was all staggered. When the opponent had the rhythm in the second half, we should have switched to defense and forced them into errors."

Tsuneyasu Miyamoto post-game comment: "Our total defense in the first half showed stability and promise, but in the second half we became overwhelmed by the opponent's physicality. Looking back I think we should have made more of an effort to stay as compact in the second half...Our game plan should have been more clear in the second half, I should have told the defensive halfs to keep compact so that we upped our defense in the second half. There is no way we can keep up the same kind of pressure we had in the first half. We have to figure out how to increase periods of good rhythm."


Given the gap of almost four months and the lack of practice time before the game (due to schedule and snow), it was impossible to expect a peak performance from the team. I think the reason why Zico may have used the base of the Confederations Cup to start the game was to make things as familiar as possible for the team so there was less confusion.

NTvsBosnia.jpg1st Half
The first half was a solid performance from the group, nothing spectacular, but there was a conscious display of unified pressure on defense. The offense is still not quite there, though there were attempts to make small connecting passes both vertical and horizontal, using heel passes and dribbling. But the timing was still off. The only times Japan broke through the defense was when Takahara and Ogasawara each made dribbling runs on the left finishing with shots from an angle which were dealt with by the goalie, and when Fukunishi on a vertical run up sailed through the back line just as Nakamura fed him the ball -- he was completely free to trap, and bounce the ball before taking the shot, but the bounce was high and he was forced to try and toe it over the goalie. The ball was deflected and caught.
(J 1-0 B) Japan got the first goal in the dying minutes of the first half -- a corner from Nakamura on the left was nicely headed in by Naohiro Takahara at the near. A good thing that our set pieces (both in the first and second half) look to be back on track as one weapon in our arsenal.

2nd Half
It became apparent straight away in the second half, that the balance of power had shifted. Bosnia, led by a much more impressive Barbarez (more impressive than he normally is at Hamburg, where he plays with Takahara), came on with a clear change of plan, and upped their physicality. They put on good pressure, and of a physical kind too -- jabbing from behind and creating an unnerving environment for the Japan ball possessor. Japan's pressure dwindled, and the most important part of the press -- the timing -- was all off, making what efforts individuals made useless as Bosnia proceeded to pass without difficulty and bring the ball with impressive fluidity to our goal area.

(J 1-1 B) With the pressure not working, and all the players having to deal with the opponent on a one-on-one matchup, everyone got pulled apart before we had time to regroup and adjust. Ten minutes in, a ball sent Barbarez through the distracted defense, and Nakaazawa was running to keep up. Inside the box, Barbarez fell (later replay showed it was a dive), and a PK was awarded and converted. Regardless of the fact that the PK call was not a great call, it still revealed the weakness of the defenders.

And Bosnia also made the wise choice of using the sides quickly to set up crosses (and they had good quality crosses). In a 4-back situation, the stability in defense goes down. And we allowed numerous crosses to go in without mark -- in a couple cases Santos made some horrifying choices in movement, failing to stick to his man -- beginner level stuff that cannot be excused.

The score was 1-1 now, but that PK gave Bosnia momentum, and their energy level and confidence soared. Whether it was our positioning and/or our lack of movement, we were not getting the loose balls, and the 10 minutes following the PK was a barrage from Bosnia. It was a very bad period in our game, and personally I think we should have substituted players in at this point to try and change the rhythm/momentum in our favor.

(J 1-2 B) Unfortunately, Zico kept the team as is, and predictably, a FK from the right gave Bosnia the lead. This was also a surprising error from Kawaguchi -- the free kick went to the far, where Barbarez headed the ball down (Nakazawa, who was marking him lost in the air); Kawaguchi seemed to catch the ball but immediately dropped it (the shot was fast and the ball was wet and slipped, but still it was a disappointing fumble), and nearby Spahic tapped it in.

By the 80th minute, after Japan had made several substitutions (see chart above), Bosnia seemed to fade a little. Whether it was that they ran out of steam, or because the manager sent in some young players, etc., I don't know. On our side, we had some attempts at through passes and vertical feeds, but the receivers were caught off sides, and the plays lacked a certain amount of dynamism.

The interesting thing about the substitutions was that it pushed Hide up next to Nakamura, so he was playing in an attacking area -- an area he prefers personally. Though we know he can contribute more overall and bring stability to this team when he is farther back. But in a situation where we are losing, putting Hide up there could have inspired him to play more aggressively. We were in injury time, when a Bosnian player went down with a hurt knee. Time seemed to tick by, and the general mood seemed to be that Japan had lost.

(J 2-2 B) But again, we forget that this team for some reason likes that final minute (this is the third out of four games that we've had goals in the last minute of the game this year). A throw in made its way around midfield, but a good course could not be found. Miyamoto received the ball at the halfway line all the way on the left sideline, and he sent a big cross to the right corner of the box where Yanaigsawa dropped it down to Nakamura with his head. Nakamura dribbled a little, found a good angle, and sent a high cross that dropped in to the middle of the box area where Hide pounced on it with a twisting motion that sent the ball to the right side of goal with his head. It was his first goal since 2003 (vs NZ) and his first header since 2002 (WC vs Tunisia).

Substitutions

I saw no need for Ono to go in -- he is not one to bring vitality to a stagnating team, but is better at settling things down when the team is rushing too much. Why he went in after Bosnia got the second goal, I'm not sure. It was utter disappointment that Daisuke Matsui wasn't used at all -- I'm not certain what this means to his chances on the squad. Matsui has shown that he has the quick dribbling, quickness in making passing decisions, and is able to hold on to the ball -- he would have been a much more appropriate substitution for the team at that time. Ono was nonexistent in the 20 minutes he played.

Kubo and Takahara played together for the very first time ever, and I am guessing that in Zico's mind these two are at the top of the forwards list -- unfortunately, because they never played together, they were not very interactive. This limited the amount of options, since both forwards didn't look to each other but instead only interacted with the midfield. Maybe Zico wanted to get these to get acquainted, but I personally think that since Kubo was unhelpful and kept getting caught way offsides, it was an indication he really didn't want to or couldn't move. Oguro should have been used much earlier.

Themes
Defense strategy, including unified pressure and the sides, positioning
Game plan -- making decisions about how to change the plan as the game proceeds
Options/Variety -- Not only were the two forwards not interacting with each other, but the team relied too heavily on Nakamura and Nakata to make the plays; others need to step up
Physicality -- this is not our strength, but there is a need for more toughness around the ball.
Forwards -- it is worrisome that all four forwards are currently in uncertain situations. Takahara is not being used much; Kubo doesn't move much to begin with, but on top of that he will be fretting about his injury reoccuring; Yanagisawa is heading back to Kashima, but who knows if the new manager will incorporate him or if he'll fit in; and Oguro at 2nd division Grenoble is still a question mark -- he is not playing in a quality team, and depending on the managers strategy Oguro may find it hard to consistently play.

Nothing Changed?
The thing that seems to be most frustrate supporters (as far as I have heard in discussions) is that nothing seems to have changed. The lack of visible improvement, strategy, variety, change, something to give us hope going forward. And the fact that the "golden midfield" is no longer the quick fix that people assumed four years ago, is also disappointing for many. The same old same old themes and problems. Can we bring it all together by June?

Positives
1) Set pieces -- a big plus is that our strategy and organization on set pieces is bringing in goals this year (last year there was a dip in set piece goals). In this game, we saw a lot of chances with Nakamura and Ogasawara's kicks.
2) Last minute goals -- though some have been cynical about these last minute goals, I think there is something there that is unexplainable by ordinary analysis or "dumb luck". It seems to be written into the DNA of this team, regardless of who is playing. The difference between losing and getting one point may come from the difference between having a set of experiences like this that keep the team motivated to not give up until the whistle blows.
3) Reading the post-game comments, I was glad to see that at least all the players were not kidding themselves about this game, but seemed to be thinking about what worked and what didn't. Whether they can convert that thought process to something concrete on the pitch in Germany, rests in their hands.

This game seems to have reset time, and many people see it as a dark cloud hanging over our heads -- back to the drawing board. I try to keep an even head about these things. Zico has said he will present his plan/strategy to the team in detail during the pre-WC camp.

For some reason, Fate has given us an incredibly glamorous roster for such a young football nation -- having a group of players gifted with a strong individual personality and definite technique to be born all at the same time, just as the J.league got launched, and then for Japan to be able to co-host the World Cup so soon after. Then Zico came on only to take Japan into unknown territory is frankly frightening. People are not sure if he can bring a clinical eye to the game, and especially Japanese experts who prefer to see proper textbook logic and a clear plan of action in black and white question to whether his personal exerience and eye for the game can bring enough to the team. The amount of unexpected and unique happenings that seem to follow this team around makes one wonder exactly what destiny has in store for us.

Many critics have jumped ship, and still new converts have climbed on, perhaps a changing of generation in our supporters. This team represents something that we haven't seen in the past and probably won't see much of in the future -- you could call it the Zico Factor, and his insistence that if the ingredients have quality one need only to sprinkle a little salt and pepper to fully respect the inherent flavor and experience a satisfying feast. Zico, his Samurai in Blue, in all their glory and all their ambiguity...
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2006/03/02(木) 15:45:47 | | #[ Edit]
________
if this game was the last chance for european call ups,.. that means it's impossible HIRAYAMA will get called.. right。suppose there won't be any public outcry, 'cos he seems to be in a position of unknowness.

well, the bottom left square
http://www.beverage.co.jp/soccer/
tells us that there's 4 games left.

Otto, sorry i don't recognise the song, but, i was actually amazed that i could recognise the song of VAMOS!NIPPON during OGASAWARA's super goal vs Finland, because it's the only JapanNT chant song i know~!!
tell me more(´∀`)
2006/03/02(木) 11:50:49 | URL | vic #/f9LbKeM[ Edit]
承認待ちコメント
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2006/03/02(木) 01:22:38 | | #[ Edit]
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上記広告は1ヶ月以上更新のないブログに表示されています。新しい記事を書くことで広告を消せます。