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Taka can play himself back into national team

19 Feb 2009(Thu)

February 18, 2009: As the goalless draw with Australia is consigned to the history books, already the talk has started about Japan's next qualifier, at home to Bahrain on Saturday, March 28.

The main subject of discussion -- again -- is who's going to score the goals, or goal, that can earn Japan three more points.

Morimoto, playing for Catania, has his fans, although I was not impressed with him in the build-up to the Beijing Olympics or in the Olympics themselves. He looked a bit lost on the international stage, even at the Olympic level, but maybe his confidence is higher midway through the Serie A season.

Another player with a loyal following is Yanagisawa, who was rejuvenated at Kyoto last year after such a distinguished career with Kashima. He led the line tirelessly and banged in a few goals just for good measure -- 14 to be precise, the best by a Japanese -- to earn a place in the J.League Best XI.

In Takeshi Okada's 4-2-3-1 formation, Yanagisawa's movement off the ball and, especially, his acceleration away from his marker suggest he could do a good job in linking the attack.

Both Morimoto and Yanagisawa, if the latter starts the new season well, have a chance of coming in for the Bahrain game, but the player I will go for is Takahara.

I still think Taka has a future at the highest level, despite his season-long struggle at Urawa last year.

I know it was easy to criticise Taka -- and also Edmilson -- for Reds' failings, but I would like to defend Taka for a moment, as I felt Reds' troubles went much deeper than that.

The injury and then lack of match fitness for Ponte...Gert Engels' reluctance to unleash the creative flair of Umesaki...the coach's loyalty to established players who were simply not performing...all these factors played a part in Takahara's poor first season with Reds.

But the former Jubilo forward remains an international-class striker and has proved throughout his career that he knows where the goal is. If Reds start well under new boss Volker Finke and Taka looks sharp and hungry then Okada may well be tempted to bring him back.

It wouldn't exactly be a gamble, would it?

ends

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