Friday, 25 June 2010

Japan Eases into Knockout Stage

Japan eased to a surprisingly comfortable 3-1 win over Denmark to earn a Round of 16 matchup against Paraguay. Denmark, with no defence or midfield to speak of (and both Bendtner and Tomasson clearly not quite 100%), were no match for the Samurai Blue. The South Americans will be a tougher test, but are a team against whom Japan should have a good chance. It should be a fascinating game with both teams in with an equal chance of progressing to the quarter-finals.

Japan could easily have scored another couple of goals on top of the three they did manage. Kyoto native, Daisuke Matsui, was unlucky to see an early effort blocked by Danish keeper Sorensen, in one of his few good plays of the game. He certainly did not distinguish himself on either of the free kicks from which Japan scored the first two goals. Both were well taken, but greatly helped by poorly built wall and bad positioning by the keeper.

Manager Takeshi Okada will feel vindicated by the results so far, and we hope that the players can continue to play this well in the next game. In a tournament that has seen many of the big name teams struggle, his semi-final target may yet be achievable.

The results after the group games, see Japan lie joint sixth in the world rankings, alongside Spain.

13CAFIvory Coast311114
18AFCSouth Korea3111-14
20CAFSouth Africa3111-24
22OFCNew Zealand303003
32AFCNorth Korea3003-110

Monday, 21 June 2010

All Whites Grab Another Point

No doubts about this one, as they took an early lead and the Wops had to rely on dubious penalty for their equaliser. Two games gone and the Kiwis are level on points with Italy and in with a shout of making the knockout stage. (They are also level on points with England and Italy, and well ahead of Slovakia and France.)

The Guardian seems to have the best report of the game.
World Cup 2010: New Zealand hold defending champions Italy to a draw

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Wheels Wobbling on Pixy & Bosco Bus?

Three years after taking charge at Nagoya, the Serbian duo's lack of tactical nous and coaching experience is beginning to tell. Manager Stojkovic clearly has been able to inspire the team on occasions, and he is the only manager we have ever had who has been able to come away with points, let alone wins, from Kashima Stadium.

However, the simple tactics are not helping the team improve, and saw them crash out of the Nabisco Cup without a single win to their name. They managed three draws and lost to such powerhouses as Kyoto Sanga and Omiya Ardija. Anything less than a top three finish in the league this season is likely to see the pair depart at the end of their contracts. The club is unlikely to shell out another 100 million yen otherwise, unless it is to entice a successful manager like Arsene Wenger back.

A promising start, in which the team challenged for the top spot over the entire first season, has been followed by increasingly erratic and yet predictable displays. The manager and head coach clearly need a tall centre forward as part of their game plan or are completely lost for ideas. Even with the likes of Mu Kanazaki, Alex Santos and Yoshizumi Ogawa in the team, the Serbian duo are unable to come up with an affective alternative when Josh Kennedy is absent.

The failure to develop the youngsters in the squad, or even see an improvement in some of the other players, such as Shohei Abe and Ogawa, suggest that even their coaching skills are not what they should be. (Both players had already broken into the first team before the new regime took over.) Abe is clearly our best choice for the left wing back position, but despite the simple tactic of sending in crosses aimed at Johnsen or Kennedy, the coaching has failed to see any improvement in the accuracy of crosses coming in from Shohei. This is a shame, since he would otherwise be a national team candidate as his speed and covering at the back are certainly good enough to cope with most offenses. Indeed, the one-track tactics seems to be wasting the talent of Kanazaki, who is far more versatile than being a one-trick pony who can whip in accurate crosses into the centre.

It will certainly be interesting to see how things develop over the second half of the season. Can the manager and head coach come up with some new ideas, or will they rely on the same predictable pattern? The simple approach will certainly see the team finish in the top half of the table, but is likely to prove too easy for the top teams to counter, even though our opponents have long since abandoned their claims to be able to counter the arial power of Kennedy. What might make things more interesting, is to see if Stojkovic can team up with another coach. That might see the team improve and mount a serious challenge for the title, but might also see the pixy dust vanish into the air.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Football with Altitude

The New Scientist has an excellent article on the effects of altitude on football and footballers. Nothing too extreme in South Africa, but it certainly explains the problems players have been having with the ball.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Kiwi All Whites Now Ahead of Clueless Roos

A late header by defender Winston Reid seen the New Zealanders earn their first point ever in a World Cup. This puts the team ahead of their Antipodean rivals, who crashed 4-0 against Germany earlier.

Well done! All Whites draw 1-1 with Slovakia All Whites rescue valuable point