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Kubo still has everything to play for

9 Feb 2006(Thu)

February 8, 2006: A few months ago, Tatsuhiko Kubo looked to be out of the running for a place in Japan's World Cup squad.

But a new year has brought a new chance for Kubo to re-establish himself in Zico's plans.

With all Japan's Europe-based strikers not involved in the friendly with the United States in San Francisco this week, Kubo has the platform to prove his fitness and his worth to the team.

When fully fit, Kubo certainly offers something special, something different.

Of all Japan's forwards he is the best in the air, climbing high and being a constant menace to his markers.

He has a strong physical presence and is not afraid to put himself about in the box, unsettling defenders with his awkward playing style.

On the floor, Kubo is unpredictable. You never know what he's going to do next. Will he shoot from such an unlikely position with that powerful left foot, will he pass or will he dribble?

With Kubo around, Zico will have someone who can unlock the tightest of defences, and I still feel Troussier made a mistake in not selecting him for the 2002 squad, ahead of Nishizawa.

Looking through Japan's list of strikers, the race is wide open for places in Germany. Suzuki, Yanagisawa, Takahara and Kubo could all play as the solitary target man in a 3-4-2-1 formation, so provided Kubo stays fit this year, and scores some goals, he has a good chance of making it.

So far, in squad selection assignments, I have ignored Kubo, simply because he has not played for Japan since September 2004 due to a catalogue of ailments.

Once he starts playing regularly again for club and country it's a different matter, of course, and then he must come into the reckoning.

For the time being I am sticking with Takayuki and Yanagisawa as my two choices for the centre forward slot, backed up by Oguro and Okubo, but things can change very quickly in football.


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