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Tsuboi offered something different in Japan's defence

11 Feb 2008(Mon)

February 9, 2008: Keisuke Tsuboi's decision to retire from international football was a big suprise.

The 28-year-old defender with 40 caps felt he had no future in the national team under Takeshi Okada so announced on Friday that he was going to concentrate solely on his club, Urawa Reds, from now on.

I watched Tsuboi training with the national squad at Inage in Chiba Prefecture last Saturday and he seemed in high spirits, but was left out of Okada's 18-strong group for the Thailand match on Wednesday.

The coach stuck with the Nakazawa-Abe partnership in the centre of defence, and preferred Mizumoto on the bench to either Tsuboi or Iwamasa.

One problem for Tsuboi is that Okada is playing with a back four, whereas the Reds defender is much more at home on the right side of a back three. In that position he can use his strengths, which are speed and his man-marking ability.

When Reds are on the attack there is no better player than Tsuboi to hold back and keep an eye on the opposing striker waiting to counter. With his pace and his anticipation in one-on-one situations, Tsuboi is very effective at cutting off those counter-attacks when danger threatens.

In this respect he offered something different to the national team -- but the rise and rise of Mizumoto has shunted Tsuboi further back in the queue for a place in Japan's defence.

Another Reds player not going to China for the East Asian Championship is Takahara, who has not been at his best in the Japan blue so far since his return from Germany.

But this will not be a concern for Okada as everyone knows what Takahara is capable of when he is in top condition, and the three matches in China will give the coach a chance to try a few combinations with his five forwards: Maki, Yano, Bando, Okubo and Maeda.


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