Our Japanese Fan Ambassador considers the perennial weakness of a national side containing such talents as Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda. Namely, that they need a bit more substance to go with their style…
The World Cup is a short and decisive battle. You eventually need to play seven games in order to win, but first you must consider the three games of the group stage that must be overcome in order to advance to the knockout round.
In a tournament that finishes so quickly, you have to play to win every game. What sort of players do you need for that? If you don’t have any players who can inject some fighting spirit into the team, the World Cup is difficult to win. Right now, Japan has a lot of ‘nice guys’ on the squad.
In that sense I think it was a good decision to call up the Kawasaki Frontale forward Yoshito Okubo (pictured). Players like him and Shinji Okazaki, who plays in the German Bundesliga, are necessary at the World Cup. You can’t survive just with players who are capable of beautiful plays. You need players who aren’t just popular, but who leave it all on the pitch.
He wasn’t called up in the end, but I wanted to see Marcus Tulio Tanaka on the squad. Japan suffers from a lack of height in the back, and a lack of leadership on the ground. Tulio would have played hard in his birthplace of Brazil, and Japan could have used a player of his physicality and leadership.
As it is, they have to draw on every ounce of fighting spirit before their first game against Ivory Coast on June 14th. The signs were better for the Asian champions in Monday’s comeback win against Costa Rica, but the doubters won’t be silenced unless they progress from Group C with a show of strength.
Sergio Echigo, born in Brazil to Japanese parents, is a household name as Japan’s most celebrated football pundit. The former Corinthians player is credited with having invented the step-over, for which Rivaldo and two Ronaldos, among many superstar players, will be forever grateful.