Posts Tagged ‘アルゼンチン

07
Apr
11

Cop out?

The will-they-won’t-they concerning Japan’s participation in the Copa America is dragging on a bit so I decided to clear it up for Weekly Soccer Magazine.

The J.League and JFA certainly have some tricky decisions to make over the coming weeks, and just how the five rounds of postponed J.League matches can be made up in an already packed schedule is not an easy problem to solve. 

Luckily I have had a lot of time on my hands lately though, and so have been able to come up with the answer for Mr. Ogura and Mr. Ohigashi: and the good news is that the J.League and Copa America can both still go ahead.

Essentially there were three options available:

Option 1. The national team travel to Argentina with any players that Zac wants to take and the J.League keeps the mid-season break as scheduled. The five rounds of matches are then made up throughout the course of the season, with one extra round per month in May, June, September, October and November.

Option 2. The national team withdraw from the Copa America and during that scheduled five week break the J.League make up the matches.

Option 3. The national team still take part in the Copa America and the J.League play rounds 2-6 at the same time. Either Zac is asked to function without any J.League regulars, or clubs are asked for their co-operation in the matter.

 

None of these options are ideal and somewhere along the line somebody is going to have to compromise. However, the recent events in Tohoku mean that flexibility is required – and should be expected – to resolve the situation.

Initially I was leaning towards the first option. All of the J.League players are professional athletes who are paid to keep themsleves in top physical condition. As such, asking them to play five matches a month rather than four is not a particulalry big demand. As a fellow journalist pointed out to me the other day, if Crawley Town of the English Blue Square Premier League (5th Division) can play twice a week, then surely J.League players can.

The problem with this option though was the break in the middle of the season. The more I considered it, the more that five-week period bugged me. It would essentially be a week for each player who is actually likely to be missing from the J.League and featuring for Japan in Argentina (Nishikawa, Inoha, Tulio, Endo, Maeda). This seems like an awful lot of time to be wasting when there are games to be played, and so I began to consider option 2.

The national team pulling out of the Copa America would ease the strain on the players but it just seems a little drastic – again bearing in mind the number who will actually be missing from the J.League. There are a few other domestic players who are on the fringes of the national team (Iwamasa, Kashiwagi, Fujimoto, Honda) but their spots could easily be filled by young J.Leaguers yet to cement places at their clubs, or J2 or University players.

 

And so I settled for option 3; the best of both. But, are J.League teams asked to get by without their stars or does Zac have to choose his squad solely from overseas players and the lesser-lights?

The latter. The Copa America is, essentially, meaningless. Japan are travelling to Argentina to gain experience (and probably make a few yen, of course), and none of the J.League players who will be missing out are lacking in either. The European-based players will have finished their seasons by then and will bring more than enough quality to the squad, with the remaining places being taken up by satellite members of J1 teams, second division players and members of Sekizuka’s Under-22 team.

If I were in charge, for example, my squad would look something like this:

Eiji Kawashima, Shuichi Gonda, Shunsuke Ando; Atsuto Uchida, Takuya Okamoto, Michihiro Yasuda, Maya Yoshida, Tomoaki Makino, Yasuyuki Konno, Yuto Nagatomo; Yuki Abe, Makoto Hasebe, Hajime Hosogai, Keigo Higashi, Akihiro Ienaga, Ryo Miyaichi, Kazuya Yamamura, Daisuke Matsui; Shinji Kagawa, Shinji Okazaki, Keisuke Honda, Takayuki Morimoto, Shoki Hirai.  

Still a strong line-up, with some potential Samurai Blue regulars of the future getting some crucial experience around the full national team, while the J.League can go about its business as usual until December.

So there you have it, problem solved.

03
Dec
10

Copa load of this…

With Japan travelling to Argentina next year as special invitees to the Copa America I decided to focus a little on the competition for my Weekly Soccer Magazine column last week. Many thanks to Sebastian Garcia (www.mundoalbiceleste.com) for his assistance with the article.

The draw for the 2011 Copa America was made on November 11th and Japan’s inclusion has raised some eyebrows – with certain parties suggesting that the Samurai Blue’s presence devalues the competition and turns it into more of an exhibition. The team is sure to benefit greatly from the experience though, and it will be interesting to see what kind of squad Alberto Zaccheroni decides to take with him to Argentina.

Japan will come up against Colombia, Bolivia and, most excitingly, Argentina in Group A and, in order to find out a little more about what the team can expect, I sat down with Sebastian Garcia, an Argentine football journalist and editor of mundoalbiceleste.com, and picked his brains.

Colombia, the 2001 Copa America champions, are Japan’s first opponents and the defence will have to be wary of two players in particular. Striker Radamel Falcao Garcia currently plays for Portuguese side FC Porto and, as a graduate of the River Plate youth team, will be a popular player around the country during the tournament.

Possibly starting alongside him, although probably slightly further back, will be Racing Club’s no. 10 Giovanni Moreno. Moreno is a free-kick specialist who Seba informs me looks slow but is almost impossible to catch once he gets going.

This match will take place in Jujuy, which is nicknamed the ‘little silver cup’. Jujuy is famous for its salt-fields and is the hometown of former Argentina international Ariel Ortega. The venue, Estadio 23 de Agosto, is home to Gimnasia y Esgrima de Jujuy – who wear the same colours as the Argentina national team – and is also where Japan will play their next match against Bolivia.

Bolivia experienced a difficult World Cup qualifying campaign, finishing second to bottom with just Peru below them. Despite this they will have a slight home-field advantage, with Jujuy actually closer to Bolivia (290km) than it is to Buenos Aires (1,525km).  The Bolivians will also be more used to the altitude, although, at 1,259 metres it is not quite as severe as La Paz. Their main threat will be Marcelo Moreno Martins, their half-Brazilian striker who plays for Shakhtar Donetsk.

Finally, hopefully with 6 points already in the bag, Japan will head south to Cordoba where they will face Argentina for top spot in the group!

Cordoba is situated exactly in the middle of Argentina and is the hometown of former Shimizu S-Pulse coach Ossie Ardiles and 1978 World Cup top scorer Mario Kempes – after whom the city’s Copa America venue is named.

Argentina are tied with Uruguay for the most Copa America titles (14), although they haven’t triumphed since 1993 – the last major trophy they won.

Sergio Batista – who was caretaker boss for the 1-0 defeat in Saitama in October and is now in permanent charge – played in Japan for Tosu Futures in the 1995/96 season, and, like Zaccheroni, will still be in the relatively early stages of forming his team.

As such, while Argentina is sure to be full of household names, it is likely that there may be one or two new faces in action come July. Seba’s one-to-watch is Palermo’s Javier Pastore, who is from Cordoba and so sure to receive a warm reception from the home fans.

The Copa America falls in the off-season for the European leagues so most of Japan’s big names will probably be able to travel, and the J.League’s finest will also be available with the division taking a break for the tournament.

Having been in Guangzhou for the past month watching Takashi Sekizuka’s U21 team at the Asian Games, I would personally like to see a couple of those players given a chance too though – particularly captain Kazuya Yamamura and, of course, the much-feted Kensuke Nagai.

The on-field antics sure to be taking place in South America will be a million miles away from the University leagues back in Japan, and the opportunity to learn more about the ‘nasty’ side of the game would aid their development greatly.

Such first-hand experience would also be vital for these players when bearing in mind that that many of them will be hoping to be involved in the next World Cup in Brazil just three years later.

29
Oct
10

Not just a sweater

I have just started a column for Weekly Soccer Magazine 「週刊サッカーマガジン」and will be posting English versions of the articles here at Sakka Nihon. If you would like to read them in Japanese please check out 「蹴球ベイベー」 in the magazine which is available from most convenience stores and news-stands.

The first subject up for discussion was Alberto Zaccheroni’s start as Japan coach – and his knitwear… 

When Alberto Zaccheroni was first announced as the new coach of Japan it was a bit of an anti-climax.

With the Samurai Blue having performed so well in South Africa it was felt that a big-name appointment could provide the spark to take the team to an even higher level and, consequently, the reaction to Zaccheroni’s appointment was rather muted.

A big name is not always what is required though, and you need only consider two of the most well-respected coaches in the world for evidence.

Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger arrived at Manchester United and Arsenal as relative unknowns, and supporters of neither club were particularly impressed by their appointments. While they may not have been dancing in the streets when they initially took over, the pair have gone on to win fourteen Premier League titles between them and very few fans of either club could bear to think of anyone else leading their team now.

Despite the distinct lack of excitement at his unveiling in September Zaccheroni made it clear that he intended to get straight down to business and, having declared that he would be spending the majority of his time in Japan, his face (and impressive collection of sweaters) soon became a common sight at J.League stadiums around the country.

As the coach set about acquainting himself with the players he would soon be working with his eagerness appeared contagious, and when I asked Shinji Okazaki for his thoughts on the new boss after Japan defeated Paraguay he replied, “Kakkoi!” It obviously wasn’t just me who was a fan of the jumpers.

Zac, as he insisted we call him, had started to win people round but the real challenge lay in the two extremely tricky opening fixtures against Argentina and South Korea. Declaring he was not scared, the new coach stayed true to his word and set up in an attacking formation when Messi and co. visited Saitama. Again, his positivity infected the players.

With four attack-minded players on the pitch in Shinji Kagawa, Shinji Okazaki, Keisuke Honda and Takayuki Morimoto, Japan refused to sit back and more than matched the tenacity, pace and aggression of their opponents.

Eiji Kawashima, Yuto Nagatomo and Kagawa  all looked full of confidence – each clearly boosted by their recent moves to Europe – and the tried and trusted pairing of Yasuhito Endo and Makoto Hasebe anchored the midfield superbly.

It was also encouraging to see the players taking a few risks, and had it not been for Hasebe trying his luck from 30 yards Okazaki may never have been given the opportunity to tuck home the momentous first goal of Zaccheroni’s reign.

Ryoichi Maeda, back in the squad having been largely unfavoured by Takeshi Okada, provided a further example of this more aggressive style of play when shrugging off the desperate lunges of Javier Mascherano and getting a shot away. All too often a Japanese striker would have opted for a pass to a teammate, and it is likely that such a strong-minded approach was in his coach’s mind when selecting the team for the Korea match, with the Jubilo man starting in place of Morimoto.

While they were unable to make it two wins from two in Seoul, it was pleasing to see them again launching their attacks quickly, and Honda in particular was peppering the goal with strikes from all angles.

Avoiding defeat to their fierce rivals – and keeping another clean-sheet – was a definite improvement on the last two meetings between the sides, and I am starting to sense a little bit of edge creeping into Japan’s play.

Not only are more players readily throwing themselves into 50/50 challenges, but the passionate pleas by captain Hasebe for a penalty (which remarkably wasn’t given) was something I cannot recall having seen too often from a Japanese player.

While the embarrassing levels of whinging and moaning at match officials in Europe is certainly not something I want to see imported by Zaccheroni, a little emotion and desire will certainly be a welcome addition to a team all too often referred to as ‘good losers’.

It is still very early, and new coaches nearly always enjoy a ‘honeymoon period’. If Zaccheroni can continue to infuse his players with such self-belief and fighting spirit though, it may not be long before the countless Fair Play awards on display in the JFA museum will be getting overshadowed – hopefully starting with the Asian Cup in January.

10
Oct
10

Japan v. Argentina

Alberto Zaccheroni got off to a flyer on Friday night, guiding Japan to an exciting 1-0 victory over Argentina in his first match in charge.

My thoughts on the match and reaction from Zaccheroni and some of the players can be found here

08
Oct
10

Japan v. Argentina Preview

Japan face Argentina at Saitama Stadium tonight with Alberto Zaccheroni taking charge of the team for the first time.

My preview of the match from today’s Daily Yomiuri can be found here




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