Monday, July 09, 2007
Once again, a side which had dominated the game was undone by a late, somewhat fortuitous goal. However this time it was the nominal favourite who had been firmly in command for most of the way.
Ivica Osim and his players can consider themselves unlucky...up to a point. In truth, the Japanese should have been two or three goals to the good by the time Qatar's favourite naturalised citizen blasted his free kick past Seigo Narazaki.
In terms of establishing control of the game, Japan did all the things right that Australia did wrong yesterday. Moving the ball around smartly, with Keita Suzuki and Kengo Nakamura proving an effective midfield axis, they kept the Qataris on their toes while not by any means exhausting themselves.
In the second half, they still had enough left in the tank for a proper, sustained assault, and with Yasuyuki Konno overlapping well on the left (he had played a much more conservative role in the first half), the Japanese took the lead with a very well-constructed goal.
It looked for all the world as if it was going to be a solid, thoroughly controlled first-up win for the defending champions.
But you don't allow inferior opposition to snatch a draw without exhibiting some deficiencies, and there were indeed some problems with Japan's performance; problems which, despite the current gloom surrounding the fortunes of the Socceroos, should give Australian fans some hope.
The Japanese defence found the powerful, tricky Sebastian Quintana a real handful in the first half. The moment when he tore past Yuji Nakazawa as if he wasn't there will not have escaped the notice of the UAE's Bruno Metsu, who has a similar bustling striker at his disposal in Faisal Khalil.
Yuki Abe, the other central defender, showed extraordinary laxity in allowing Quintana to sweep past him in the move which led to Qatar's fateful free kick. Abe's eventual clumsy (and probably unnecessary) shove should perhaps have even merited a red rather than a yellow card.
At the other end of the park, Japan's finishing was surprisingly hit-and-miss. The left-winger Satoru Yamagishi twice found himself in promising positions in the first half, but could only manage feeble shots at goal; in the second half, he blazed over from point-blank range.
Above all, Shunsuke Nakamura was very far from his imperious best; evidently he has not quite recovered from the injury which bedevilled his preparations for the event. He may come out of his shell in future games, however - watch this space. In full flow, he is quite something to watch.
One thing has already become very clear at this Asian Cup. No team can be taken lightly.
Toto, we're not in Oceania anymore.
Yeah, a pity that. I suspect the cult of the EPL has really taken over in SE Asia...they feel they're getting third-rate stuff. Actually, some of the football has been very good to watch.
But i guess they are spending their money on the home team and then the next day just can't afford to watch the other teams.
Although, i would have thought Japan and Australia would have a lot of support from the locals.
On the other hand, this is where the local hosting commitee could work stronger with the communities and if there is not much atmosphere they could bring in the local schoolchildren etc, to drum up some kind of atmosphere.
After Sebastian scored, they had an easy opportunity to take it back to 2-1
The difference between this and Australia, is that Australia did not control teh game, Oman was on top of us... and this is what most worrying not the result, its the performance..
The thing is, though, Australia (IMO) ceded the initiative to Oman right from the outset, while Japan kept possession, switched play and made enough small inroads in the first half to force Qatar onto the back foot, while not completely exhausting themselves. If the Qataris hadn't scored that late goal, you'd have to say that the Japanese had made a solid, patient, well-planned start to the tournament.
It's true what you say, that Hanyu had a good chance to regain the lead after the Qatari goal, but that goes back to Japan's finishing, which isn't the best IMO.
They're a good side but they are definitely beatable.