Posts Tagged ‘Maya Yoshida


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.


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.


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.


Players keen to keep improving under Zac

The Samurai Blue may have failed to register any goals in the recent Kirin Cup but the players certainly benefited from the time together on the training pitch. 

After the final game of the tournament against the Czech Republic I got the thoughts of Eiji Kawashima, Maya Yoshida and Keisuke Honda, all of whom are keen to keep improving.


Stalemates still productive for Samurai Blue

The Kirin Cup may have ended a dead-tie – almost literally, with all three games ending 0-0 – but the Japanese national team were still able to take some positives from the tournament.


My consideration of the Samurai Blue’s performances can be found here.


Japan v. Peru preview

The 2011 Kirin Cup gets underway this evening when Japan take on Peru in Niigata.

Here’s my preview of the match for The Daily Yomiuri.


Home from home

At the start of the month I travelled north to Sapporo. It certainly won’t be the last trip I make to the city…

Within a few hours of arriving in Sapporo I was sat in a jazz and blues bar (“Boogie”) discussing Britpop, football, and the marijuana laws in the UK and Japan. Then the owner turned up, put his band’s CD on, sang enthusiastically along and insisted on buying me some beers. As first impressions go it’s fair to say I was rather taken with the city. 

Of course, I wasn’t just there to sample the evening entertainment though, and my initial motivation for travelling north had been to watch a game at Sapporo Dome – scene of that David Beckham penalty in 2002 and the only Japanese World Cup stadium I hadn’t been to.

I had considered cancelling my trip after Consadole’s match with Verdy was called off because of the earthquake, but eventually decided to make the pilgrimage anyway and am delighted I did.

Arriving at the Dome with a slightly groggy head from the night before, it wasn’t quite as I’d imagined though.

Perhaps it was my hangover, but, as I recalled from the pictures in 2002, the stadium resembled a spaceship set in the middle of the countryside all on its own. Instead, it is actually located in a fairly non-descript urban area and struck me more as a huge blob of melted solder than a UFO.

Spaceship or not, it is still a very impressive sight and I was disappointed I would not be able to see a match there this time around. 

Luckily Consadole were in action over the weekend though, and the next day I headed to Miyanosawa for a friendly between the top team and their Under-18’s. 

Set against a mountainous backdrop that was made all the more impressive by the heavy sheets of snow that were falling, Miyanosawa is the exact opposite of Sapporo Dome and is what I would call a proper football ground. It felt like I was at a non-league game back in England – and I mean that as a compliment.

The club shop, situated in one corner of the ground, is without doubt the quaintest I have ever been in, and the oak-effect and dim lighting made me feel as if I was in an English country pub (sadly there was no ale available though). On the second floor was a similarly-themed football museum, and it was really nice to wander round here and get a feel for the, albeit short, history of the club before the game kicked off.

There was a real community feel to the stadium and I sensed a definite closeness between the players and their fans – and not just because the stands are right next to the pitch.

This impression was enhanced by the fact I had come directly from the Japan game in Osaka – where every appearance and wave of a player was greeted the shrieks of hysterical teenage girls. As Maya Yoshida commented after training the day before that match, the atmosphere at Nagai was more like that at a SMAP concert than a football stadium.

In Sapporo things were far more football-like though, and despite the freezing conditions everybody stuck around after the game – which ended 1-1 – for a series of charity events to raise money for the relief efforts in Tohoku.

The youth team’s Takuma Arano patrolled the car park with a megaphone drumming up custom  for Hironobu Haga and some Consadole old boys who were accepting donations, while the rest of the players patiently signed hundreds of autographs and then took part in a charity auction of various football memorabilia. (Gon’s boots sold for ¥50,000, although he was nearly outdone by those of the next-big-thing Hiroyuki Furuta whose went for ¥40,000).

The feel-good spirit at the club put me in a great mood so I thought I’d spend my last night in Sapporo the same way as I’d spent my first. With a plane to catch the next day I decided to steer clear of “Boogie” though, opting instead for a couple of quiet local brews and some jingisukan. Before I knew it, it was 2am and I was still chatting away to the regulars in “Afro”…

Perhaps it’s a good thing that I couldn’t see a game at Sapporo Dome this time; now I have the perfect excuse to go back…


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.


The Back Post – Self-belief the key for Miyaichi

The last month or so has seen several more Japanese players head to Europe, including the 18-year-old High School player Ryo Miyaichi, who has just signed for Arsenal.

While the number of players moving abroad is increasing and can only be a good thing for the game here, the level of self-belief Japanese players have in their own abilities is still up for debate, as I discussed in today’s Daily Yomiuri. 

If Sakka Nihon isn’t enough then you can follow my every move (sort of) here.

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March 2023