Wednesday 29 February 2012

Samurai Blue slip to Uzbekistan defeat in qualifying dead rubber



Football Japan’s Ben Mabley presents a quick report of Japan’s 1-0 home defeat to Uzbekistan on the final matchday in the third round of Asian qualification for the 2014 World Cup.

The Samurai Blue had already ensured their progression to the final round of qualifiers, but a lacklustre display saw them beaten to top spot in Group C by the Uzbeks, for whom the only goal came through Aleksandr Shadrin on 54 minutes.


FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifier results – AFC Third Round
Group C
Tajikistan 1-1 North Korea
Japan 0-1 Uzbekistan


Friendly results (Friday 24 February)
Japan 3
-1 Iceland

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Monday 20 February 2012

Japan go experimental for Iceland friendly



Japan national team coach Alberto Zaccheroni will use Friday’s meeting with Iceland in Osaka as an opportunity to experiment with fully nine uncapped players named in a wholly domestic-based squad of 25.

18-year-old Yuya Kubo of J2 side Kyoto Sanga is the biggest surprise in a list that also sees first ever call-ups for fellow striker Hidetaka Kanazono of Jubilo Iwata, midfielders Ryota Isomura of Nagoya Grampus and Gaku Shibasaki of Kashima Antlers, and goalkeeper Takuto Hayashi of Vegalta Sendai.

Also hoping to make their international debuts after serving as unused squad members in the past are Naoya Kondo and Junya Tanaka – who won J1 championship medals with Kashiwa Reysol last term – as well as Kashima midfielder Chikashi Masuda and Shimizu S-Pulse custodian Kaito Yamamoto.

Meanwhile, veteran forwards Yoshito Okubo of Vissel Kobe and Naohiro Ishikawa of newly-promoted FC Tokyo both return to the full national squad for the first time since Zaccheroni took charge in 2010.

The match is Japan’s last scheduled friendly before the final round of Asian qualification for the 2014 World Cup kicks off in June. The Samurai Blue sealed their place with two third round matches to spare and host current Group C leaders Uzbekistan for a dead rubber in Toyota a week tomorrow.

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One man hoping for an early chance at full international level in the Uzbekistan fixture is Ryo Miyaichi, who scored his first goal in English football on Saturday as Bolton Wanderers beat Millwall 2-0 in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

The 19-year-old was forced to remain patient as the opening half of the season yielded just two substitute appearances in the League Cup with Arsenal, but a loan switch to the Reebok Stadium on transfer deadline day has seen him immediately involved in Owen Coyle’s first team.

Named in the Trotters’ starting eleven for the first time after impressing on his Premier League debut against Wigan Athletic seven days earlier, Miyaichi needed just four minutes to stamp his impression on the cup tie. Sprinting onto a quick free kick from Sam Ricketts, Bolton’s number 30 cleverly cut across Millwall full-back Alan Dunne before firing an unstoppable shot into the far corner of the net.


Millwall 0-2 Bolton Wanderers (Miyaichi goal)

Japan Football Association technical director Hiromi Hara had informed the press on Friday that Miyaichi’s club had been contacted with regard to the forthcoming World Cup qualifier – for which Zaccheroni will be able to call upon his overseas-based players.

Takashi Usami, who once again sat on the Bayern Munich bench at the end of a week in which he reiterated his intention to leave the club this summer, is also on the standby list.


Hannover 96 4-2 VfB Stuttgart (Okazaki goal)


TALKING POINTS
- In the Bundesliga, VfB Stuttgart slumped to a 4-2 defeat at Hannover 96 but Shinji Okazaki at least gave away fans one reason to smile with a spectacular overhead kick to complete the scoring on 79 minutes.
- In-form Shinji Kagawa is set to miss out for Japan after rolling an ankle in training with league leaders Borussia Dortmund on Thursday.
- Tadanari Lee scored his first goal in the English Championship to round off a comfortable 4-0 win for Southampton at home to Derby County.
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Monday 13 February 2012

Okazaki and Kagawa on target as Usami ponders options



Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder Shinji Kagawa was once again the pick of the Japanese internationals in action across Europe over the weekend, scoring the only goal as the reigning Bundesliga champions held onto top spot with victory at home to Bayer Leverkusen.

The 22-year-old collected the ball from teammate Jakub Błaszczykowski to cleverly burst past one defender and cut back inside a second, before hitting a low shot off balance that found its way inside the far post via the outstretched leg of Leverkusen ’keeper Bernd Leno.

The win keeps Dortmund two points clear of Bayern Munich at the summit.


Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Bayer Leverkusen

Kagawa’s Samurai Blue teammate Shinji Okazaki was another with plenty to celebrate as his 32nd-minute header was the third in a 5-0 romp for VfB Stuttgart against struggling Hertha Berlin. The former Shimizu S-Pulse man broke free in the opposing penalty area to benefit from a perfectly-placed cross from Dutch full-back Khalid Boulahrouz.

Gotoku Sakai also made his full debut for Stuttgart after completing an 18-month loan agreement from Albirex Niigata over the winter.


VfB Stuttgart 5-0 Hertha Berlin

One player moving in the other direction, meanwhile, is former Japan forward Kisho Yano, whose return to Niigata was announced on Wednesday following a difficult 18-month period in Germany with Freiburg – who were beaten 3-2 by Makoto Hasebe’s VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga, Hajime Hosogai put in another strong performance for Augsburg as they drew 0-0 with Nürnberg yesterday afternoon, while Takashi Usami has been given a vote of confidence after seemingly being set to leave Bayern Munich just a few weeks ago.

The 19-year-old has spent much of the season in the reserves, with the Bavarians declining their option to turn his loan from Gamba Osaka into a permanent deal, but has now been called back onto the first team bench for the last two league matches with new reports suggesting that the club are in fact keen to extend his rental arrangement for a further year.

Bayern defender Jerome Boateng has added his support, telling Goal.com: “[Usami] is a great guy and a good player. It would really please me if he stays at Bayern.”

However, Usami himself has expressed reluctance at the idea of a lengthened loan. Speaking to the Munich-based tz newspaper, he said: “I am not really positive if this could work... I would like to join another club where I could play more regularly and grab myself a more important role.”


TALKING POINTS
- Yuto Nagatomo came on as a late substitute but was unable to prevent a shock 1-0 home loss for Internazionale against Serie A’s bottom club Novara on Sunday. Takayuki Morimoto was not in the matchday squad for the visitors.
- Mike Havenaar played his first full 90 minutes for Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem in a 3-1 defeat away to Feyenoord.

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Monday 06 February 2012

Gonda handling errors costly as Japan’s Olympic side hit stumbling block




A 90th minute goal out of nothing condemned the Japanese men’s U-23 team to a 2-1 defeat against Syria on Sunday which sees them relinquish top spot in Group C of the Asian qualifying section for the London Olympic Games this summer.

Nominally the away side despite the game being played in Amman, Jordan due to the current political situation in Syria, Japan were placed onto the back foot after 19 minutes when goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda let a Mohammed Fares free kick spill through his hands via a slight deflection off the head of Yuya Osako.

The Kashima forward, who had only entered the fray moments previously as a replacement for the injured Ryohei Yamazaki, atoned for his unfortunate initial intervention in first half stoppage time – playing the ball through for Kensuke Nagai to squeeze it past Ibrahim Alma and just inside the far post.

Osako could have clinched all three points for Japan with ten minutes remaining, but struck a tame shot off balance that Alma was able to push behind for a corner.

However, with the match seemingly headed for a draw, Syria defender Ahmad Al Salih was the surprise hero right at the death with a speculative looping shot from fully 30 yards. Gonda attempted to block with both hands stretched above his head but misjudged the flight of the ball and looked back in horror to see it nestle in the net behind him.

The setback sees Japan fall behind Syria in the Group C table on goals scored, ahead of their remaining fixtures away to already-eliminated Malaysia on 22 February and at home to third-placed Bahrain on 14 March. Only the three group winners are guaranteed a ticket to London, with the runners-up being placed into a further round-robin to determine the final qualifier.

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The European transfer window closed with Keisuke Honda still a CSKA Moscow player after his anticipated switch to Serie A side Lazio fell through at the last minute.

While conceding that the player had been keen to leave Russia – a poorly-kept secret for some time – CSKA were quick to blame the Italians for their insistence on paying the reported €14 million transfer fee in instalments; an accusation rejected by Lazio officials who accused the selling party of ‘playing games’.

Honda himself was quoted by Goal.com as saying, “It’s true that I was looking forward to Italy. All I can say is that this time things didn’t work out with Lazio. But there may be an even brighter future in store for me. My goals haven’t changed and I don’t intend to change them.”

One Japan international who was able to put an end to an unhappy spell in Europe was Masahiko Inoha, who joined Vissel Kobe from cash-strapped Croatian side Hajduk Split. The defender had reportedly not received his wages for several weeks and severed ties with the club in mid-January.

Meanwhile, German giants Bayern Munich have announced that they will not be taking up their option to complete a permanent deal for Takashi Usami, who is currently on a year-long loan from Gamba Osaka.

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