Posts Tagged ‘Brazil 2014

14
Jun
12

Steady play from Honda has Japan sitting pretty

Japan will be happy with their start to the final round of qualifying for the Brazil 2014 World Cup after picking up two home wins and earning a draw away to Australia.

Integral to that success was the side’s new number four, Keisuke Honda, who was in commanding form throughout the qualifiers. I considered his importance to the Samurai Blue – and a few other talking points – for The Daily Yomiuri.

12
Jun
12

Japan aims to stay on roll in clash with Australia

Japan’s first two games in the final round of qualifying for Brazil 2014 went better than anybody could have expected, with 3-0 and 6-0 home wins over Oman and Jordan, respectively.

Tonight they take on Australia in what is sure to be their toughest game yet. The players are confident, though, and as Yasuhito Endo, Keisuke Honda, Eiji Kawashima and Yuto Nagatomo said after the romp over Jordan, they are aiming for a third consecutive win in Brisbane.

08
Jun
12

Zaccheroni works to keep Samurai Blue tightly focused

Japan got off to a terrific start in the final round of World Cup Qualifiers with a 3-0 win against Oman on Sunday.

After that game and at training this week I gathered the thoughts of manager Alberto Zaccheroni and some of his players on their next match, which is against Jordan at Saitama Stadium tonight.

06
Jun
12

Creeping up from Down Under

The development of the J.League has been far smoother than that of the Australian A-League, and the most high-profile clash between Japan and Australia saw the Samurai Blue come out on top in last year’s Asian Cup final. The Japanese game may have the upper hand at the moment, but Australian football is steadily closing the gap…  

Next week sees the latest instalment in what is steadily becoming a very interesting rivalry in the Asian game, when Japan travel to Brisbane to take on Australia in the final round of World Cup qualifiers.

Leaving aside the fact that Australia is not actually in Asia – and that in ‘The Socceroos’ it has the most ridiculous nickname in world football – the steadily increasing competition between the two countries is without doubt having a positive impact on the game on both sides of the Pacific.

It is fairly obvious that one of the key reasons for the FFA (Football Federation Australia)’s decision to join the AFC was to increase its chances of making it to World Cup finals (Oceania has just half a spot and must contest a play-off against a side from another federation, while Asian qualification offers four-and-a-half berths), and they and Japan are clear favourites to make it to Brazil from Group B.

Further to that there was also undoubtedly a desire to face a higher standard of opponent though, and both at a national team and club level this is seemingly helping the Australian game to improve.

In the same way that Japanese players are becoming more accustomed to the physical side of the game thanks to their increasingly frequent meetings with their bigger, stronger opponents from down under, the Aussie’s are also picking up pointers from their more technically adept rivals.

After last month’s ACL game between FC Tokyo and Brisbane Roar, for instance, the Roar players were full of praise for their opposite numbers.

“In the A-League the style they play is different,” Bahraini defender Mohamed Adnan said.

“Here they try to keep the ball. [In Australia] they try to play long balls or challenge, they use fitness. But here they are more technical than in the A-League.”

His teammate Besart Berisha was also impressed with FC Tokyo, insisting that he and his teammates were aiming for a similar style of play.

They really work together,” the Albanian said. “The way they do this is perfect, the way they understand each other. The way they move is blind – I say always like this, blind; they know where the other players are, and this is beautiful.”

A third Roar player, Ivan Franjic, added to the praise for the J.League side, but insisted that the Australians were steadily closing the gap.

“They’re very talented and gifted technically, but the A-League’s still a great standard and is going up every year.”

Far from being a one-off in the case of Brisbane – perceived by many to be the most attractive Australian side – he also paid reference to the fact that fellow A-League sides are increasingly enjoying success against J.League opponents in the ACL.

“I definitely think we’re not that far off,” the 24-year-old added. “You can see with the other teams, Central Coast and Adelaide, you can see that the standard is catching up very quick.”

One Aussie who knows all too well about how the game back home is improving is Josh Kennedy, whose Nagoya Grampus side were knocked out of the ACL in the Round of 16 by Adelaide United.

The top scorer in the J.League for the past two seasons is, of course, particularly looking forward to the game with the Samurai Blue.

“I wish Tulio was still in the team, that’d be good,” he joked shortly after the draw had been made, before setting aside digs at his club teammate to address the rivalry between the countries more seriously.

“Obviously if you go by rankings it’s us and Japan to get through but there’s always surprises, always other teams that’ll step up and give it a good shot.”

With that in mind it is tempting to suggest that they may both take it easy and settle for a draw in Brisbane on Tuesday.

If Kennedy has his way that won’t be the case though, and he insists that the growing competition between the two countries means the home side are keen to get one over on the Samurai Blue.

“There’s an Australian-Japan rivalry that we all have now, especially with them winning the Asian Cup, so we’ll definitely be wanting to win that first game against them and I’m looking forward to it.”

03
Jun
12

Japan expects nothing less than win over Oman

The last round of Asian qualifying for the Brazil 2014 World Cup gets underway tonight, and Japan’s first match is at home to Oman.

Ahead of the game I gathered the opinions of Mike Havenaar, Yasuhito Endo, Shinji Kagawa, Ryo Miyaichi and Keisuke Honda  for a preview for The Daily Yomiuri.

02
Mar
12

Zac: Japan doomed by lack of will

Japan lost 1-0 to Uzbekistan on Wednesday night, condemning Alberto Zaccheroni to his first home defeat in charge of the Samurai Blue.

After the match I gathered reaction from Zac and the players for The Daily Yomiuri.

29
Feb
12

Zaccheroni’s building project ready for next battle

Japan play their final match of the 3rd Round of Asian Qualifying for the 2014 World Cup against Uzbekistan tonight.

Both teams are already through so all eyes are on Alberto Zaccheroni’s team selection, and in particular Ryo Miyaichi.

23
Nov
11

Japan’s unbeaten record goes south in North Korea

A trip to Pyonyang is always going to be a difficult fixture. I can’t help but think that Japan let the atmosphere affect them a little too much though…

So, Alberto Zaccheroni’s unbeaten run as manager of Japan ended at 16 games.

As well as losing such a proud record the Samurai Blue also surrendered their title as Unofficial World Champions in the process – meaning that the North Koreans can now, justifiably (sort of), claim to be the best team in the world.

The run had to come to an end sometime, and the fact that it did so in the peculiar environment of the Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang is not actually so surprising.

The game was a dead rubber, with Japan assured of their passage to the next stage of qualification while North Korea had already become the first team to appear at the 2010 World Cup finals to be eliminated from the 2014 competition.

With that in mind Alberto Zaccheroni was able to experiment a little, and went into the game minus seven regular starters (including the injured Keisuke Honda).

While the outcome of the match wasn’t important, the Italian would still have been paying close attention to how his back-up players performed in such hostile surroundings though, and will certainly have taken note of several things.

Chief among them was the fact that the side seemed to be lacking in guts a little, and they were clearly affected by the intimidating atmosphere created by the fervent home support. From the moment that Kimigayo was vehemently booed the players, used to being pampered in their comfortable lives outside the hermit kingdom, struggled to focus on their game and were unable to build any kind of rhythm in an incredibly stop-start opening 15 minutes.

North Korea are a very physical outfit and didn’t hold back in any of their challenges, but while Zac suggested after the game that they had no need to worry about suspensions with their qualification campaign already over, that seemed to me like something of a weak excuse.

Some of the tackles were a little over-zealous but very few, if any, were especially dangerous, and if the Japanese players had matched their opponents for desire in the challenge then their hosts may well have backed down a little.

That didn’t happen though and, having realised that their combative tactics were causing Japan to retreat further into their shell, the North Koreans kept up their approach. This added further fuel to the home fans’ enthusiastic support and made Japan’s job even more difficult.

To an extent, the Japanese players’ trepidation was understandable, and even watching on TV I was fascinated by the scenes inside the stadium.

As well as the intricate card displays in the main stand grabbing my attention I was intrigued by the appearance and behaviour of the North Korean supporters.

With everybody dressed in uniforms or simple, prim-and-proper button-up shirts, and sporting conservative, no-nonsense hairstyles it reminded me a little of archive footage of English football fans from the 60s.

The impression of travelling back in time was added to by their behaviour after the goal, with the excited clapping and broad smiles also reminiscent of a bygone era.

These finer points will almost certainly have passed the players by, but the palpable desire of everybody in the stadium to beat Japan was clear for all to see. The celebrations after the final whistle drove home just how much more the North Koreans wanted the win than their opponents, as did the fact that the big screen behind the goal did not deviate from the score even as the supporters finally made their way to the exits.

It is said that you learn more in defeat than victory, and Zac will also now be aware of the fact that the team needs to improve on its travels. They may be able to perform in the exhibition-match niceness of the Kirin Cup and lambs-to-the-slaughter visits of the likes of Tajikistan, but when they are away from home the side looks less comfortable.

The unique atmosphere of Pyongyang is, of course, not going to be experienced anywhere else in the world, and there is no need to panic.

Tricky away fixtures are sure to be on the cards in the next round of qualifiers as well though, and lessons can and should be learned from this disappointment before they come around.

12
Oct
11

Japan v. Tajikistan Preview

On Tuesday night Japan played Tajikistan in their third group game in the third round of Asian qualification for Brazil 2014.

I wrote a peview ahead of the match for The Daily Yomiuri, which can be found here.

05
Sep
11

Mike Havenaar and Chong Tese on World Cup qualifiers

Japan take on Uzbekistan in Tashkent on Tuesday while North Korea welcome Tajikistan to Pyongyang as the 3rd round of Asian qualifying for Brazil 2014 continues.

After Japan defeated North Korea 1-0 in Saitama on Friday night I spoke with Mike Havenaar of the Samurai Blue, and the Chollima’s Chong Tese to get their thoughts on that game and their next fixtures.




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