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[WCQFinal] Japan 3-0 Oman @ Saitama Stadium June 3 2012
June 3 Supporter at Japan vs Oman

Kagawa, woven arms The surprisingly in-tune voices of the record-breaking crowd at Saitama Stadium gave a beautiful performance of the Japanese national anthem. I have to admit, I prefer the instrumental-only version of the anthem so that you can hear the voices of the stadium. During friendly games, the sponsors always arrange to have some soloist sing it a capella, but nothing beats this giant chorus of 63,500+ voices. There was definitely a power to the crowd this night even prior to game start. It set a strong tone for the evening.

Japan took off from the whistle and continued to barrage Oman's defenders with lots of build-up via the sidebacks. I was glad to see Uchida putting in a much more spirited and ambitious performance particularly in the first 20 minutes. There was a lot of concern about whether the Europe-based players were going to be fit for the game, and although Hasebe admitted they were not at 100% yet it was obvious that the players were not planning on cutting any corners.

There was a distinct thoroughness to the way they played both in defense and offense, as if they were keeping mental images of training maneuvers in their minds. One aspect of training did bear fruit with a series of forward-moving one-touches allowing a speedy Nagatomo up the left side for a lobbed cross to an unmarked Honda at the far post for goal (11 min). The volley was angled and cleverly timed.

Things curiously slowed down after the first goal. Though Japan should have and could have tripled their lead in the first half, they seemed to fall into a semi-waiting game against Oman. I can only assume that the players were expecting Oman to switch their engines on to a more attack-minded play. But Oman stayed mysteriously quiet, showing no hint of wanting to score. Whether this was part of Oman coach Le Guen's gameplan, or whether it was just a result of Oman's nerves getting the best of them, I can't be sure.

Zaccheroni was visibly aggravated by the slowing down of pace. He has commented that he believes Japan's attack is most effective and successful when the players maintain a passing rhythm that is fast. Camera's showed him on the sidelines furiously gesturing to the players to stop mucking around with slow side-passes and get on with it, already. Japan got through Oman's defenses again and again, giving the linesmen a very good workout -- Japan was called off-sides numerous times, and the stadium sighed disappointed in unison when a shot from Kagawa was denied by the man with the flag. (see Video 5 for footage of Kagawa's shot)

A good talking-to during half-time seemed to do the trick, as the Samurai Blue returned to the pitch with more gusto. It took a beautiful diagonal through pass from Kagawa to Maeda to finally double the score at 6 min.

This certainly looked off-sides, but given the wonky linesmanning (is that a word?) during the first half, I figure we fared even.

The goal count went to three only a few minutes later when dribbling efforts by Nagatomo, Kagawa, and Maeda were rewarded by an Okazaki goal. In true Okazaki fashion his goal was less an elegant "set up" than it was a "collision" of opportunity, but that is his trademark, and it certainly has kept his international goal-count up.

Having collected a yellow card, Uchida was taken off and substituted by 22 year old Hiroki Sakai. Sakai was 2011 J-league Best New Player, and is expected to sign with a Bundesliga club in the near future. Okazaki, who had gunned his engine for the entire game, was substituted by Hiroshi Kiyotake (signed with FC Nurnberg starting July 1). You may remember him as the 22 year old who set up Honda's goal in the 3-0 friendly against Korea last year, or who sent up the cross for Yoshida's dramatic last-minute header during last qualifying round's home game 1-0 against North Korea.

H.Sakai looked understandably nervous at first, but he soon created a number of good chances from the right, taking advantage of his speed and power. One particularly promising play allowed him up to the base line for a cross back to Honda. Al Habsi showed his ability by denying Honda's shot as well as responding quickly to the follow-up shot by Kiyotake. Both Sakai and Kiyotake did not play to the best of their full abilities, but they were decent.

Endo was then subbed out for a spirited Hosogai whose energy always refocuses the team's defensive discipline when things start to wane towards the end of games.

Here is a neatly edited compilation of Japan's big chances.

According to match statistics Oman had only one shot during the game.

From the Oman Observer
Le Guen's post-game comments: “Japan deserved to be the winners as they were far better than us. To be frank we did not really exist in this match,’’ said Oman’s coach Paul le Guen in his post-match comments. “Our boys did not create any scoring opportunities and I am disappointed with that...We have to improve in order to come to such a level. Losing to Japan in Japan is not a shame. We will try to play better against Australia in Muscat on June 8,’’ said Le Guen.

Comment On This Entry

Kagawa at Man Utd is a finished deal :)
2012/06/05(火) 18:38:00 | URL | Otto #-[ Edit]
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