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Kubo takes his chances

8 Dec 2003(Mon)

It was inevitable that one Japanese striker would score his first goal for the national team at the East Asian Football Championship.

After all, of the four players designated as strikers on the official team list, none of them had scored once for Japan.

In the build-up to the game against China in Tokyo on Wednesday, this lack of goals from the forwards had been a major talking point at the training sessions.

But it took Japan only four minutes and 30 seconds to find the net, thanks to an early goal from Tatsuhiko Kubo.

The Yokohama F Marinos forward scored again 10 minutes from time, after earlier hitting the post. Entering the match with no goals in 14 previous appearances, albeit many of them as a late substitute, Kubo now has two in 15, and should get more against Hong Kong at Saitama on Sunday.

This situation reminded me of a joke in England about our poor public transport system, namely the bus service: that you wait at the bus stop for an hour, and then two come at once!

Although Kubo said the statistic had not been on his mind, I am sure those two goals will have lifted a psychological barrier in his play.

His first goal owed much to the tenacity and vision of Ogasawara. At first I was groaning when Ogasawara's poor free kick on the left went straight to a Chinese player, but the Antlers playmaker quickly regained possession and chipped the ball over the top into the path of Kubo.

In typical, fearless style, Kubo bulldozed his way through a defender and the goalkeeper before knocking the ball into the net with his right foot...another unusual occurence from this predominantly left-footed player.

His second goal was very coolly exectuted, as he broke away in the inside-right channel and finished in style with his left.

I think Japan will beat Hong Kong well, but the Korea game on Wednesday will be tough.

As for Kubo's strike partner, Yoshito Okubo, he is still waiting for that first goal. At the moment he looks to have caught the "Yanagisawa Syndrome"--doing everything right but then snatching at his chances.

The Chinese keeper made a great save from Okubo in a one-on-one situation in the first half, and in the second he hit the crossbar when he should have hit the net.

He will not have a better chance to open his goals account than against Hong Kong. I am sure he will score in this game, so relax Yoshito fans!

If only Yoshito would relax, too, in front of goal.


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