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Osim is off the mark over Nakata, Nakamura

13 Feb 2006(Mon)

February 11, 2006: The comments of JEF United manager Ivica Osim have always to be respected.

But I think he went a bit too far this week with his criticism of Hidetoshi Nakata and Shunsuke Nakamura.

In an interview with a Croatian newspaper, which was picked up by the Japanese media and then the English-language media in Japan, Osim said Nakata and Nakamura did not work hard enough.

"Zico will suffer because of Nakata and Nakamura. They don't run like Kranjcar. They just hold the ball," Osim was quoted as saying, comparing the Japanese duo with Niko Kranjcar, Croatia's young playmaker and son of national coach Zlatko Kranjcar.

Now, I watched Kranjcar twice in Hong Kong recently, playing for a depleted Croatia team in the annual Carlsberg Cup.

Yes, he is a very accomplished technician, stroking the ball around elegantly and playing lots of short passes with his team-mates to keep the attack moving forward.

But he lost the ball on several occasions, mainly through inaccurate passes, and looked quite sluggish at times. I discussed him with the Croatian media following the team in Hong Kong and the verdict from them was that the young Kranjcar was slow and still had a long way to develop.

I was happy they had confirmed my impression, although, of course, I am sure he will look much better in a full-strength Croatia team in Germany.

As for Nakata and Nakamura, I would say Nakata is much more dynamic than Kranjcar, and able to play at a higher tempo. One of Nakata's qualities is his stamina, so I can't understand why Osim -- a coach I admire immensely -- thinks he does not run enough.

Regarding Shunsuke, there is no doubting the effort he puts in, but he does not have the staying power of Nakata and this is why he is often substituted in the second half, even in Scotland.

Nakamura's talent lies elsewhere, in his skill, his vision, his passing and, above all, his world-class free kicks. The latter quality cannot be under-estimated in today's game, as many matches at the highest level are determined by a single, set-piece play.

In his interview with the Croatian newspaper, Osim made several interesting points -- such as Zico's reluctance to bring through new players, his loyalty to players not playing well for their clubs, his emphasis on attack and not enough balance in defence, and his policy of handing responsibility to individual players when this does not suit the Japanese character.

But to say that Nakata and Nakamura do not run enough for the team is off the mark.


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