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JFA waited too long for Takahara

19 Jul 2004(Mon)

It is no surprise that the unlucky Naohiro Takahara will not be going to Athens.

What is a surprise to me, though, is that the JFA waited so long in the build-up to the squad announcement Friday.

As a result, Japan will take only two over-age players in their 18-man party: Sogahata in goal and Shinji Ono in midfield.

I can't understand why the JFA dithered so long over Takahara.

Clearly the young man has a serious health problem, and I thought it would have been best for all concerned to rule him out of contention as soon as he was struck down by his second bout of deep vein thrombosis.

This was at the end of May, and I always thought it would be risky asking him to play in Athens, where it will be a very dry heat and difficult to catch your breath.

Had Takahara been fit, he would have been the perfect choice for Yamamoto-kantoku, because the team clearly lacked an attacking spearhead during the qualifying campaign.

Although Takamatsu did well when called on, I regard him as a player to come off the bench. The same can be said for Hirayama.

If Takahara had been fit, Yamamoto's three other forwards would probably have been Tanaka, Okubo and Takamatsu, with Hirayama missing out.

Now, Yamamoto is going to have to start with Takamatsu/Tanaka or Takamatsu/Okubo, with Hirayama ready to come on for a late aerial bombardment.

To be honest, I'm not sure if this attack is going to be strong enough.

When Takahara was struck down with his illness, I thought Yamamoto would have identified another forward. In this column before I have mentioned Takayuki Suzuki. I think he would have done a good job in this team as an experienced target man, although I would have hoped the JFA would tell him to show some Olympic spirit and stop diving in Athens.

As for the formation, I would be tempted to play 3-4-3, with no midfield playmaker but a forward line of Tanaka, Takamatsu and Okubo.

There is a lot of quality in defence and midfield, but I still think the team needed a new centre forward.

I think the JFA waited too long on Takahara, and should have been making alternative arrangements several weeks ago.


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