domenica 1 giugno 2014
Japan defensive front still raises questions
While all the eyes will be on Samurai Blue’s offensive front, where are the most well-known Japanese players, Alberto Zaccheroni’s side success could rely on how good, or bad, they will perform on the own half of the pitch. Defence has never been an area of strength for Japan, and this World Cup made no exception. On the net, Zaccheroni remained faithful to the same goalkeepers trio over the last two year. Eiji Kawashima’s starting spot were never in doubt. But Standard Liège keeper showed so many ups and downs over the years so, although he’s one of the most influential player in Japan locker room, he needs to solidify his position as team’s designated starting goalkeeper. Some fans would like to see Shuichi Gonda between the posts. FC Tokyo’s netminder is solid and more consistent in the goal than Kawashima. The third goalkeeper, Shusaku Nishikawa, is no more than a reliable backup. In Japan's 4-2-3-1, the right-back starting spot belongs to Atsuto Uchida, who plays there at Schalke 04. Although Uchida showed his value, his shape raised questions due to the hamstring injury he suffered this season. With Inter’s Yuto Nagatomo sure to start at left-back, questions remain about the centre-backs. The centerpiece of Japan's backline is Maya Yoshida. The Southampton centre-back has experience but his lack of playing time following the knee injury he faced last March raised some concerns. FC Tokyo's Masato Morishige and Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s Toshihiro Aoyama are the two probable backups at centre-back. Aoyama still has chances to take Yasuyuki Konno starting place alongside Yoshida if presumed starter Yasuyuki Konno of Gamba Osaka should continue to show the declining shape that recently affected his play. Both Konno and Aoyama could be moved to the holding midfielder role if captain Makoto Hasebe’s injury will sideline him. Precisely the holding spot is a key part of Zac’s side as the defensive four rarely had support by Japanese creative midfield, with the opponents often able to find gaps between the two lines just outside the box. If last 1-0 friendly win against Cyprus set an indication of Zaccheroni’s thoughts, you still can’t rule Yasuhito Endo as the Italian manager seems to think that Endo is still able to take the pitch at this level despite his slow-foot and his declining tackling abilities. However who will start over there remains to be seen as Zac maybe have not clear ideas on who will be utilized to fill this role.