May 28, 2008: If the Kirin Cup was meant to prepare Japan for the Oman game on Monday, Takeshi Okada must have more doubts now than he did a week ago.
What his starting line-up and formation will be is anyone's guess, apart from the goalkeeper (Narazaki) and back four (Komano, Nakazawa, Tulio and Nagatomo).
Of course Shunsuke Nakamura will be in, so that's six.
The rest of the places look far from settled -- and will Japan play 4-4-2 or 4-5-1?
Whatever he decides in the next few days, one thing is clear: Japan must attack hard from the start and try to grab an early goal, because the longer the match goes on without a goal, the more frustrated they -- and the fans -- will become.
Expect Oman to defend deep, as they will be happy with a draw.
This means Japan must get round the back of them, which they struggled to do against Paraguay, and get the ball in the box to create some chances in front of goal.
I want to see them putting Oman under pressure with players running at defenders, players shooting; in general playing at a high tempo.
Against Paraguay there was too much laboured build-up, too much pass-pass-passing in areas that were never going to hurt the opposition.
The Omanis will be happy to sit back and watch that from distance, as opposed to being forced on the back foot from the opening whistle by an aggressive Japan attacking down the wings and through the middle.
For this reason I would play Okubo, as he thinks positively and knows how to win free kicks in the Shunsuke zone.
I'd play Matsui on the left as he has the craft and the speed to get round the full back and send over an accurate cross. Ditto Yamase on the right, although this is not his natural position.
I just want to see some speed and dynamism on the wings, and some width to Japan's attack from the midfield, because they get bogged down with their intricate passing through the middle, and moves break down too easily without a chance being created for all the ball possession.
Suzuki and Konno would hold the team balance in the centre of midfield, and Shunsuke would be allowed to roam free, behind Okubo -- the solitary striker in a Rooney role.
I feel this team has speed, substance, width, experience, balance, height..and, dare I say it, goals -- at least two (and that's only half time!).
My team for Monday (4-4-1-1): Narazaki; Komano, Nakazawa, Tulio, Nagatomo; Yamase, Suzuki, Konno, Matsui; Nakamura; Okubo.