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Reserves give Japan three reasons to cheer

12 Jul 2004(Mon)

Every cloud has a silver lining.

This was the case for Japan in their Kirin Cup match against Slovakia at Hiroshima Big Arch on Friday night.

Zico's initial squad lacked several experienced players, such as Hidetoshi Nakata, Inamoto, Ono and Takahara.

Then, when Tatsuhiko Kubo pulled out injured, it looked like Japan might struggle for goals.

Against Slovakia, they proved this to be wrong, scoring three times, two of them from forwards. So things are never as bad as they seem to be.

Japan's first goal was a trademark strike from midfielder Fukunishi, who is an expert at set-pieces. Everyone in the J.League knows that Fukunishi must be marked closely at corners and free kicks, because he is deadly with his head at near-post situations.

Slovakia cannot have done their homework, as Fukunishi was left unmarked to head home Shunsuke's corner. It was a very easy goal for Fukunishi, and will have given him even more confidence as he fills in for the unavailable Inamoto and Ono in the midfield engine room.

Nakamura was also behind Japan's second goal, opening up the Slovakia defense with a delicate pass into the path of Suzuki, who finished in style with his right foot.

Again, Suzuki got his chance because Kubo was injured, and gave Zico his reward.

Japan's third goal really brought a smile to the face of Zico, as it was scored by his former Antlers player Yanagisawa.

Although it was something of a comedy, there was no denying the tenacity and the determination of Yanagisawa.

Pressure in midfield from Atsu Miura prompted a wayward back-pass from Slovakia, and the goalkeeper then committed a schoolboy error by trying to dribble round Yanagisawa.

The Messina man stuck to his task, though, watched the ball and came away with it, before stroking it into the empty net.

Yanagi has scored some excellent goals for Japan. This was not one of them, but it is in the record book like the others and was just what he needed after a frustrating season with Sampdoria.

Goals from Fukunishi, Suzuki and Yanagisawa...that was the silver lining for Japan, as Zico's squad grows in confidence and the coach learns more about his players as he goes along.

Maybe the "key" men are not as important as we think.

ends

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