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Now that's more like the Taka of old

11 Jun 2007(Mon)

June 7, 2007: No doubt about it, Taka's back!

The two Kirin Cup games, and the Peru match in March, have revealed a hungry, mature and rejuvenated Naohiro Takahara; a player ready, willing and able to lead Japan's line again.

I must admit I went off Taka for quite a while, as he struggled at Hamburg and lost the cutting edge to his game. When he returned to the Japan team in those days he was not the same player, and his manner had turned from confident and ambitious to rather cocky without the results to back it up.

But the Takahara on display these days is a battler and playing with something to prove. He has come back well after his transfer to Eintracht Frankfurt and now looks the part, scoring goals, tackling back and running hard off the ball.

His goal against Montenegro was a cracker, that flying header at the near post to Komano's pinpoint cross from the right, and he played well against Colombia, despite missing a decent chance to head the winner right at the death.

The Colombians clearly targeted Taka for some rough treatment, especially early in the second half, and Japan's centre forward complained bitterly to the Danish ref that he was the victim of elbows as the match progressed.

In Osim's 4-5-1 formation, Taka did a good job on his own up front, although I would have liked to see Maki in there from the start, alongside him, like the Peru game.

It seemed a strange choice to play Inamoto so far forward, and Osim realised it was a mistake by replacing him at half-time.

"Ina" just could not get into the game. I have always regarded him as a defensive midfield player who likes to push forward, and he looked lost in that advanced position.

Troussier once told me, while preparing Japan's team for the 1999 FIFA World Youth Cup in Nigeria, that he always thought Inamoto would end up as a central defender. It has not happened yet, but it may be one option for his new employers, Eintracht Frankfurt, or even for Osim if he wants another look at Ina in the future.

ends

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