Japan Asian Cup
The three times Asian Cup winner might find that 2007 Asian Cup will be harder than the past tournaments. Along with Iran and Saudi Arabia, Japan is one of the favorite for Asian Cup title. However 2007 Asian Cup which will be held in July brings one new competitor, Australia, which could possibly disrupt the Japanese from advancing to the final with ease.
Japan has a strong but short history when it comes to football. For many years, soccer was an unpopular sport in Japan compared to baseball. Yet although the soccer league was already in place, soccer still failed to pull up the public interest resulting in poorly managed league. However the turn around point happened in 1993 when the new and more professionally managed Japanese Soccer League was formulated (J-League). The presence of J-League marked the start point of well known Japanese soccer history.
J-League was managed and marketed properly which made the public attention turn into soccer. The presence of games and comics based on J-League also helped soccer to gain popularity amongst children and youth. The new J-League bred one of the Japan superb playmaker, Hidetoshi Nakata. Nakata gained popularity when he played for Perugia and his performance helped to convince many European leagues scouts to pick up more Japanese players.
Alongside with two Japanese legends, Kazuyoshi Miura and Masami Ihara, Nakata helped Japan to display a phenomenal performance in 1998 World Cup. Although Japan failed to advance to the next stage, many talent seekers for European teams started to notice the potential of Japanese players. Junichi Inamoto, Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, Shunsuke Nakamura, Hidetoshi Nakata and Naohiko Takahara were the most famous Japanese players who have played for European teams.
With more and more players playing in the European leagues, Japan smothered Saudi Arabia 1 – 0 in the 2000 Asian Cup final. The team also promised bright future by advancing to the 16 round in the 2002 world cup and won the 2004 Asian Cup again. However their performance went downhill afterward and failed to win any match in the 2006 world cup. After being slaughtered 4 – 1 by Brazil, Japan failed to win their matches with their equals such as Australia and Croatia.
However history has proven that they are still strong team in Asia, Japan is still favored to win 2007 Asian Cup despite their lackluster performance in the latest world cup. Alongside Australia, Iran, and South Korea, Japan is noted as the A-class soccer team in Asia.
The Japanese squad was hit hard by the injury of their naturalized defender, Marcos Tulio Tanaka. Tanaka suffered a torn ligament injury during one of the league match and was ruled out from the squad.
The Japan squad preparation was disrupted further by its discipline attitude. Japanese Football Association refused to delay J-League opening match until the first match of Asia cup. As a result, Japan will depart to the Asian Cup with a bunch of tired players. Compared to the rest of the participating countries, almost all of the countries liberated their national team players from playing in the league to prevent injuries and fatigue. Coach Ivica Osim has already expressed his concern regarding the league fixtures, but the Japanese Football Association refused to take heed.
Osim concern was proved to be right. Beside Marcos Tulio Tanaka who was injured in a league match, Hiroki Mizumoto was also injured during the weekend league match. But the damage is already done and all Osim can do is to find suitable substitutes for those two pillars in the defense.
Coach, Ivica Osim also displayed a knack for sensing potential players who are playing in Japan. Among the 30 names which Osim called to the team, only few players play in European leagues. However Osim is proven to know a lot about local talents due to his experience with J-League team.
With the devastating performance that Narazaki displayed in the 2006 world cup, chance is Osim will hand the keeper job to its veteran 1998 world cup goalkeeper, Kawaguchi.
Kawaguchi often displayed superb performance when it comes to important match. The experienced defender, Nakazawa Yuki will play the vital role of keeping his area safe. Shunsuke Nakamura will also likely to dominate the match due to his superb performance in the Scottish league. Nakamura is in top condition and will lead the attacking side of Japanese midfielders.
For the defensive midfielder, it will be hard for the opponents to get through Yasuhiko Endo. This sturdy defensive midfielder has played more than 40 international caps for Japan and has played the role of defensive midfielder well. And for the goal scoring task, Naohiko Takahara of Eintracht Frankfurt will be the main target man for Japan.
Japan is pooled in the toughest group of all four groups. Along with Qatar, UAE, Vietnam, Japan will find that the early stages of this competition will not be easy. Both Qatar and UAE are not easy push. Those two are the most likely teams to accompany Japan to the second round. Although Vietnam is the weakest team in the group B, Vietnam has emerged to be one of the strong Southeast Asia soccer team. Supported by tons of fanatics, it won’t be easy for Japan to handle Vietnam in their third match. And the pressure will be doubled if Japan hasn’t scored two win in their first two matches.
Both Qatar and UAE have the typical Middle Eastern players built. Strong, tall and have superb stamina. Many fouls are likely to happen in order for them to stop Japanese wiggly midfielders. Nakamura has proven to score magnificent goals from set pieces and will likely to display the spectators with another round of beautiful shoot.
The public expect Japan to win Asian Cup for the fourth times however judging from their group, it won’t be very easy. It will all depend on their first two matches, if Japan performed well they will likely to advance to the final stage.
Not mentioning Australia and South Korea who will be Japanese toughest opponents in the championship later stages. One of the most awaited matches is between Japan and Australia. Japan want to do revenge of their lost 3-1 to the Aussie side in the 2006 world cup. You can watch Japan with live Asian Cup football inside our member’s area. Catch up on live soccer feeds and football streams that cater to over 20,000 members.
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