soccer

Japan counting on Kagawa, Honda in World Cup qualifiers

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Kagawa, I can see. Honda's always a choke artist when it comes to major soccer events. He does well at hogging the ball near the net and squandering chances, though, if that's the aim.

Good luck to team Japan as a whole, though.

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Japan's midfield is the best in Asia I have to say but as has always been the case they desperately lack a clinical striker and that's holding them back from being a top team. They also look more vulnerable at the back than they did during the last WC campaign. Nakazawa is a bit of a lowlife but they miss his solid defence and height. I expect Japan to qualify pretty easily but I hope the Socceroos get the job done against them in Brisbane which would make our path less tricky. I don't wanna be going to Yokohama next year needing a result.

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"Zaccheroni has come under criticism after losses to North Korea and Uzbekistan at the end of the previous round of Asian qualifying cost the 59-year-old Italian the unbeaten record he held since taking over in September 2010."

This is another thing that drives me nuts; the guy led the team in an unbeaten streak since Sept. 2010 and then through bad playing by the team Japan suddenly questions the foreign coaches ability. And yet Okada, who had nothing but losses until the actual WC began, and very little experience besides, is a hero. The team needs to focus on its OWN playing and skills, under Zacch's guidance, not blame him for their own failures.

Anyway, Asia is the easiest match in all of WC to qualify for, so Japan should have no trouble with their first two teams at least. I hope the Aussies beat them, though. SK should also have no trouble, though Qatar may put up a bit of a fight.

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smithinjapan - You constantly bash Honda, but the only two times that Japan has lost since Zaccheroni has taken over was while Honda was injured. His ability to hold the ball while giving players like to Kagawa to run into open space is invaluable to this team. And when has he choked in major soccer events? The World Cup? The Asian Cup? He was great in both of those tournaments. What major soccer events are you talking about?

banz10 - I completely agree, not having a decent striker is, and always has been a problem, but more than that, the back line worries me. Nakazawa (btw, why do you consider him a lowlife? I always found him to be extremely humble and hardworking and always a good example for the rest of the team) was a rock for them, and while age has caught up to him and he isn't good enough for the national team now, they haven't been able to find somebody who gives them a calming presence since the last World cup.

Anyways, good luck to Japan. If I were to make a couple of suggestions to Zaccheroni, the first would be to avoid using Maeda up front at all costs. I think he's horrible, but would love for him to prove me wrong. I would also substitute Uchida on the right side for Sakai. The timing of his runs and his crossing abilities are so much better than Uchida. Frankly, I'm not exactly sure why Uchida is so highly rated.

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Oh, and congratulations to Kagawa for being selected as a member of the best eleven this year by the ESM (European Sports Media). I believe he becomes the first Asian player to be selected. Tremendous accomplishment for the young man!

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Kreza23, I used to like and admire Nakazawa too until Japan lost to Australia away in the last game of the last WC qualifying campaign. Both teams had already qualified but it meant we finished top and Japan, who were a bit arrogant then, were relegated to second place. He was really bitter about it and condescendingly said to the Japanese media that they were "beaten by pizza eaters". That was an obvious slight on Australia being in Asia but not being Asians. So, like I said, he's obviously a real lowlife. Google it...

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Kreza: "You constantly bash Honda"

And rightly so!

"but the only two times that Japan has lost since Zaccheroni has taken over was while Honda was injured."

And how many goals did he score in the last WC? How about his sorry performance for the better part of the Asian Cup, and the fact that he didn't deserve the MVP nod while other players did SO much better than him? In fact, many speculated that it was already decided he'd win MVP if Japan won the Asian Cup because he's Japan's golden-boy. And I'm sure other players were not present as well in the games Japan has lost. And you know what, Honda WAS present in a lot of games Japan has lost as well... so what's your point.

"And when has he choked in major soccer events?"

Again, I point out the last WC -- he choked EVERY TIME in front of the net. Yet when other players were doing better the cameras still rolled to their golden boy and the commentators had few words for the viewers/listeners aside from 'HONDA KEISUKE!! HONDA KEISUKE!!!' They treated the event as though it were a one man team instead of a team united thanks to the win against Holland. He did not and does not in one bit deserve the media fan-fare he gets here, much like other undeserving sports athletes get. I could name a dozen off the top of my head if you like, but since we're talking about soccer let's stick with that. He's not a BAD player, for sure, but no better than a lot of his teammates, and certainly not deserving of the amount of media attention he gets by comparison.

And how's he doing for the Russian team, by the way, since being passed over by Europe? A lot of other players are doing well for their overseas teams, but Honda still seems to be getting most of the attention. Look, you yourself admit Japan lacks a good striker while you sit here and praise Honda, in essence agreeing with me. He handles the ball relatively well on the field, is fast, and admittedly can pass well most of the time, but always flubs it up in front of the goal.

I agree with you on Nakazawa's comment (not sure that 'pizza eater' is as insulting as he intended... would be like Australia saying they beat the 'sushi-eaters' or something) -- and have likewise lost what respect I had for him in terms of personality.

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Kreza: "Oh, and congratulations to Kagawa for being selected as a member of the best eleven this year by the ESM (European Sports Media). I believe he becomes the first Asian player to be selected. Tremendous accomplishment for the young man!"

I completely agree with you here.

Oh, and my bad -- it was banz10 who made the comment about Nakazawa I agree with, not you.

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smithinjapan - "And how many goals did he score in the last WC?"

He scored two goals, assisted on another, and also scored on his penalty in the tie-breaker against Paraguay. In the four games Japan played, FIFA awarded him the Man of the Match award twice. Sure, he probably missed on a few chances, but so does everybody who plays the sport. No exceptions. Again, I don't know how you could think that he choked at the World Cup. If anything, he raised his stock and profile with his performances.

"Yet when other players were doing better the cameras still rolled to their golden boy and the commentators had few words for the viewers/listeners aside from 'HONDA KEISUKE!! HONDA KEISUKE!!!'

I don't remember them screaming Honda Keisuke!! when another player was "doing better", but the cameras used at the World Cup are international feeds, so it's not like the Japanese media was doing that.

"And how's he doing for the Russian team, by the way, since being passed over by Europe?"

Wow. I thought Russia was a part of Europe. And he was doing great for them, but as stated in the article, he's been hampered by injuries this past year and just came back. He still managed to score 8 goals in 25 games playing further back then he does on the national team. And he wasn't "passed over by Europe" like you state. It has been reported that teams like Liverpool and Lazio have tried to obtain him in the past, but CSKA asked for ridiculous transfer fees that the other teams wouldn't agree to.

"Look, you yourself admit Japan lacks a good striker while you sit here and praise Honda, in essence agreeing with me."

What? He most definitely is NOT a striker, so I don't think I'm agreeing with you at all. He doesn't play as a striker in Europe, and he doesn't play as a striker for Zaccheroni. The only time he has ever played as a striker was at the last World Cup because their other options were terrible, and Okada was desperate to try anything because they were in such poor form before the tournament.

banz10 - I had never heard the comment that Nakazawa made. Thanks for letting me know!

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banz10 - I just did a little research on that Nakazawa comment. Apparently Nakazawa (who was watching from the stands because he was injured), saw Australian national team players who didn't make the bench, eating pizza while watching the game from the stands. It had nothing to do with ethnicity or nationality.

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Go the Socceroos! As for Nakazawa - isn't he one of the Japanese guys who spends more time in salons getting his hair permed and coloured instead of training? Or is that all of them? LOL

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Excellent posts, Kreza. It seems you are quite familiar with the Japanese national team. I agree with your comment about using Sakai rather than overrated Uchida. Sakai has height as well. As for Maeda, he honestly hasn't impressed me much. I'd like to see more of Havenaar or Miyaichi. Morimoto has had a promising career derailed by many injuries. I was hoping he could be the striker that Japan is looking so desperately for.

@Smith, as Kreza pointed out, Honda scored 2 goals for Japan in the WC, which was most on the team of course. You mention he handles the ball well, and I agree. He has good body balance and does not give up the ball when the defender puts pressure on him. However, he is NOT fast. Quick, maybe, but he has never been known for his speed.

Anyway, best of luck against Oman!

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bicultural - Cheers! The only thing that Uchida has on Sakai is speed, and it only comes in handy when he's scrambling back because he's been caught out of position. I still have hope for Morimoto, although he really needs to find the perfect situation for himself for next season. It just seems like every time he's about to finally realize some of that potential, he gets hurt. I think Haavenar is a great option as a sub, but for him to become a regular, he needs to get stronger.

As for Miyaichi, I can't wait til we see the day that Kagawa and Miyaichi are wreaking havoc up front. I think once Endo is done with the national team, I wouldn't mind seeing Honda in Endo's spot, and having an in-form striker (whoever that may be) play right in front of Miyaichi, Kagawa and Kiyotake or a more mature Usami (though it may be necessary to have Okazaki's hard work on the right side instead). Anyways, lots to look forward to!

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Kreza23, if that was his reasoning it's a pretty lame excuse don't you think? No, at the time it was very clear what Nakazawa had meant because of the tone and context of his comments. It said a lot about the guy. He was a sore loser and was trying to belittle his opponents. Anyway, let bygones be bygones and all that...

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Honda only scored two goals and made one assist out of the 4 goals Japan scored at the last World Cup, this is exactly what you calls a choker.

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banz10 - I don't know if you've seen the Japanese version of his comments, but it infers that he felt that Australia was a lot more relaxed about the game (hence, so relaxed that teammates were eating pizza in the stands), and Japan was pretty serious and they still lost. His very next quote was that Australia was simply at a different level than Japan. For some reason, every English version of his quotes that I see tend to leave that part out. Sensationalism perhaps?

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