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Striking problem for Zico

3 Oct 2005(Mon)

September 30, 2005 -- Zico is going to have a very big selection headache before the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Just look at the names in the squad for the two-match tour of eastern Europe, and then see who's missing because of the all-star game or other reasons.

Apart from the three goalkeepers picking themselves, and several of the defenders, the competition for midfield and forward places is expanding all the time.

His four strikers for Latvia and Ukraine are Suzuki, Yanagisawa, Takahara and Okubo, but that still leaves Oguro, Tamada, Tanaka, Maki and even Kubo at home in Japan.

Midfield is clearly Japan's strength, so I can't imagine Zico picking any more than four forwards in his squad of 23 for Germany, which must include three keepers.

At the moment, my choices would be Suzuki, Yanagisawa, Okubo and Oguro.

I think this gives Zico stability and unpredictability in equal measures. I could see Suzuki (or Yanagisawa) leading the line, with Okubo in support, and Oguro on the bench, waiting to come on when defenders are tiring and finding the spaces other forwards can't see.

So where does this leave Takahara?

I know the World Cup is in Germany and Takahara is playing there, for Hamburg, but Zico will show no sentiment in this matter when the time comes.

I don't think Takahara has played well for Japan on a consistent basis for quite some time. In fact he was awful in the 2-1 defeat to Iran in Tehran, playing without confidence and unable to control the ball.

Zico knows he can trust Suzuki, Yanagisawa and Oguro, and clearly likes Tamada, no matter what kind of form the left-footed forward is in for Reysol.

Zico would like to trust Okubo, too, but obviously feels he is far from the finished product, despite his exuberant talent, while Tatsuya and Maki always seemed to be temporary call-ups.

As for Kubo? Maybe Zico has written him off already, as his long-term fitness is a huge concern.

Takahara has everything to prove to Zico on this two-match tour.

ends

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