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Striking options endless for Okada

9 Feb 2009(Mon)

February 6, 2009: Takeshi Okada has the kind of problem every manager would like before a big match -- just who to pick and who to leave out of his forward line against Australia on Wednesday.

Even though Shunsuke Nakamura, Okubo and Matsui are all due back from Europe, home-based players Okazaki and Kagawa staked their claim to a starting role by scoring in the 5-1 defeat of Finland.

Add in Tatsuya Tanaka and Tamada, and Okada is spoilt for choice as he looks to fill the four attacking positions in the 4-2-3-1 formation.

Presumably Tamada will lead the line, and Shunsuke will play on the right of the three, a position from which he can cut inside and use his left foot to devastating effect, be it a clever pass behind the defence, teasing cross or long-range shot.

Okubo, who has quickly impressed Felix Magath at Wolfsburg, would be naturally at home in the centre of the three, collecting the ball deep and running at defenders through the middle.

And Matsui would be perfect on the left, his Euro experience and trickery on the wing adding width to Japan's attack.

This would leave us with a Shunsuke-Okubo-Matsui strikeforce to support Tamada, and would surely cause a few problems for the Aussie defence.

It would also mean there would be no place for Okazaki, full of confidence after his two goals against the Finns, Tanaka or Kagawa -- all three possessing the speed and the low centre of gravity that Okada favours and that could surprise the Australians.

Shunsuke-Okazaki-Okubo is another possibility, as is Shunsuke-Okubo-Kagawa...the list goes on, and Okada will be considering all permutations in the build-up to this massive match.

Who knows, he could even play Endo on the left of the three, clearing the way for Inamoto -- impressive against Bahrain -- to partner Hasebe in the two-strong engine room and give Japan a bit of bite in the middle of the park.

I'm worried about the keeper, though, whoever Okada chooses, as the Australians are so strong in the air at set-pieces. Maybe Tsuzuki's club connection with Tulio will earn him the nod. A great game in store. A great occasion for Japanese, Australian and Asian football.

And here's the team Okada might put out, playing 4-2-3-1: Tsuzuki; Uchida, Nakazawa, Tulio, Nagatomo; Endo, Hasebe; S. Nakamura, Okazaki, Okubo; Tamada.

A prediction? I will play safe, and say 1-1. And I repeat...this would not be a bad result for Japan in anyway.


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Tsuzuki; Uchida, Nakazawa, Tulio, Komano; Endo, Inamoto; S Nakamura, Kagawa, Matsui; Okazaki!

Posted by: gooner | 02/09/2009 01:02 pm

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