Two Confederations Cup’s matches are in the box and Japan is already out after the opening loss against Brazil and the following heartbreaking defeat to Italy in the second game. Japan played against two different kinds of opponent and the performances too was different. Against Brazil, Alberto Zaccheroni left out Ryoichi Maeda, lining up Hiroshi Kiyotake on the right while using Shinji Okazaki as the lone striker. Japan was outplayed as they failed to control the midfield zone and didn’t press high up the pitch. They let Brazilians ran a slow tempo game. Japanese back four sat too deep while both Okazaki and Keisuke Honda wasn’t able to chase Brazil’s deep-lying playmaker Luiz Gustavo. Also, both Japan central midfielders, Makoto Hasebe and Yasuhito Endo, didn’t help defence to control Brazil’s attacking midfielder, a role where Oscar and Neymar were interchaning, with Chelsea midfielder drifting out wide allowing Neymar to move inside.
Japan reshaped towards the second match and they improved against Italy. For this game, Zaccheroni made some changes, bringing in Ryoichi Maeda as centre forward and moving Shinji Okazaki wide open to the right, dropping Hiroshi Kiyotake. Hasebe and Endo controlled much more the game. This increased amount of ball retention gave both full-backs Atsuto Uchida and Yuto Nagatomo time to break forward giving them the needed width. But a key feature for Japan were their changed approach as they was pressing high up in the way they didn’t against Brazil. Zaccheroni’s side were much more bilanced and their pressing keept the tempo high with Italy struggling as usual as they are uncomfortable with a faster pace.
Also, they tracked Andrea Pirlo, forcing him to play just short passes and Daniele De Rossi to play deep in the way to support Cesare Prandelli’s deep-lying midfielder. Shinji Kagawa and Nagatomo worked well the left of the pitch where Italy’s right back Christian Maggio, a natural wing-back at his club, was uncomfortable playing full-back. He also received not help from De Rossi and Alberto Aquilani and Prandelli was forced to remove Fiorentina’s midfielder introducing Sebastian Giovinco, in the way to improve the right flank situation and to give more support up front to an isolate Mario Balotelli.
Japan’s performance against Italy wasn’t bad as it was against Brazil but they still lost. They have a lot of gifted players but they showed some holes. Japanese players failed to stay focused the whole match once again as the start of the second half pointed out. Zaccheroni is a very good tactician and he well prepared this game. Japan nullified Pirlo and dominated the flanks, where Italy’s full backs were lacking of support. But Zaccheroni failed to made the right adjustments whithin the match: his introduction of Mike Havenaar up front made sense but it was made too late. The lack of a finisher didn’t help as neither Maeda and Okazaki are proven scoring threats. The tempo of the game dropped after Japan went 2-0 and it helped Italy to get back on track. The overall run of play was good in the second game but Japan failed to close the match when ahead.