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Marinos fail to fire at Komaba

13 Apr 2006(Thu)

Tokyo, April 11, 2006 -- Whatever has happened to the Yokohama F Marinos?

I have seen them twice in the past few days, and, despite the undoubted quality throughout the team and on the bench, they have looked anything but potential champions.

The most recent occasion was Saturday at Saitama Urawa Komaba Stadium.

Their opponents were Omiya Ardija, and it was quite strange watching a J.League game at Komaba without the involvement of Urawa Reds.

Where was assistant coach Gert Engels having his pre-match cigarette in the lobby? Where was the White Horse to carry Guido home? Where was Ya-jin running down the right wing?

Marinos must have thought it unusual, too, as they lacked motivation and urgency, and cannot complain at all about losing the game 2-1.

Takeshi Okada was in a grim mood after the defeat, so much so that I didn't even try to speak to him in English, in which he is very competent. I just let him walk by, and remained at a safe distance!

But who can blame him?

His well-paid stars had been humbled by modest Omiya, and the large "away" following had every right to jeer their players after the game.

Looking through the Marinos team, there should be no excuses for such a limp performance.

Matsuda, Kurihara and Nakazawa form a formidable back three, and Kurihara, at 22, must have a chance of being called up into the Japan squad post-Germany World Cup. He is impressive in the air, and can learn a lot from the two "old hands" either side of him.

The Marinos midfield has good balance, with Tanaka on the right, Dutra on the left, and Ueno and Magrao in the middle, allowing Yoshida to link up with his two strikers, Kubo and Marques.

Yoshida, however, is rather lightweight, and made little impact on the game, thereby reducing the effectiveness of the two forwards.

Although Kubo scored with a trademark header, after some poor defending by Omiya, he was rarely in the game and looked far from 100 per cent fit. It must be a real worry for Zico, as clearly the Brazilian head coach has Kubo earmarked for a key role in Germany.

Marques is a clever player, but still looked slightly traumatised by the man-marking of Inoha the previous week in a 1-1 draw with FC Tokyo at Nissan Stadium. It was as if Marques could sense Inoha on his shoulder (even though he was not in the same prefecture at the time), and the Brazilian could not relax into his game.

The lively Sakata and the predator Oshima, who always looks dangerous in the box, failed to spark a late revival in a generally flat and lethargic display from Okada's team.

Perhaps Nakazawa and Kubo are saving themselves for the national team cause. If they are, Marinos fans will be hoping their team has not fallen too many points behind Reds when the action resumes after the World Cup.

ends

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