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Wenger offers expert insight

20 Jun 2005(Mon)

Tokyo (June 18): It's always refreshing to hear comments from an "outsider" about the Japan national team.

Especially from an "outsider" with a little "inside" information to add to his vast knowledge of the game at large.

So the half-time viewpoint of Arsene Wenger was one of the highlights of the Japan-Mexico Confederations Cup game.

Wenger said he was impressed with three Japanese players in particular: Yanagisawa, for his movement up front; Kaji, for his power down the right flank; and Hidetoshi Nakata, for his all-round skill in organising the team.

Japan had played quite well in the first half, but lost their rhythm and shape in the second as Mexico dominated.

Yanagisawa's goal, a delicate finish at the near post into the far corner, followed an exhilarating move, thanks to some great control, vision and skill from Ogasawara and Kaji's run and cross.

But Mexico's two goals in response highlighted bad defending by Japan.

There was too much space in front of the defence for the first one, a well-struck long-range shot, and weak challenges in the air for the second. How Japan missed Nakazawa in that situation!

However, I still think Zico's 3-4-2-1 is an interesting formation, but needs finetuning in terms of personnel.

I would bring in Koji Nakata alongside Fukunishi to bolster the midfield defence, move Hidetoshi Nakata forward alongside Ogasawara, and put Shunsuke on the bench. I thought Shunsuke looked tired, slow and weak against Mexico, and a Nakata-Ogasawara pairing behind Yanagisawa would be much more dynamic and dangerous.

Japan now have a tough task to qualify, and must beat Greece and at least draw with Brazil.

If they don't qualify for the semi-finals, though, I won't be too concerned, as at least Zico has devised, after three years, a system that can play to Japan's strengths.

It's just a matter of picking the player most suited for each position.

ends

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