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Anyone remember who was in goal for Japan against HK?

12 Oct 2009(Mon)

October 9, 2009: One of the positive things about not having NHK BS is that it forces you out of the apartment into a local pub to watch the match in a party atmosphere.

It can also produce some amusing observations from fellow viewers, such as this one during the Japan-Hong Kong game on Thursday night: “Who is Japan's goalkeeper?”

It was 5-0 at the time, and, to be fair to the viewer, he was a late-comer and had only been watching for about 15 minutes. It turned out to be a good question, because we had not seen Japan's goalkeeper for a while and were struggling to recall who had actually started the match.

“It's Nishikawa,” someone said eventually.  It was indeed, but it might as well have been Tulio or Nakazawa such was Japan's domination over a very poor Hong Kong side.

It was like a game of “attack and defence” we used to play on the park, using only one goal and with teams of four or five players taking it in turns to attack and defend.  That's how one-sided the Asian Cup qualifier turned out to be, with Japan winning 6-0 and missing enough clear chances to have finished in double figures.

Playing on his home ground, Okazaki grabbed the headlines with his hat trick; his first of the night from Hasebe's razor-sharp pass being the pick of the bunch.

I liked Nagatomo's goal, too. He showed such a positive approach and quick feet in rifling the ball into the net with his right foot, beating the keeper at his near post. I really think Nagatomo has the all-action game and the personality to be a success in Europe, and plays in a position, left back, where height is not a vital factor.

Elsewhere, Okubo and Matsui will have to improve if they want to stay in the squad on the road to South Africa, as more candidates are emerging to put them under pressure. Maybe this is what Okada learned from the Hong Kong match, and the other players will be hungry for action in the remaining two games against Scotland and Togo.

As for Hong Kong, I was very disappointed at the low level of their play. I lived in Hong Kong for eight years and followed the football closely. They did have some good players in the early 1990s – local Chinese as well as imports -- and the game has a strong tradition and following, with 60 players from five clubs turning professional as far back as 1967. Even though they had an under-strength team here, it was no excuse for the poor play: the lack of marking, the lack of stamina and physical strength, and the suicidal tendency to play the ball into the middle of the pitch when under pressure rather than knocking it long down the line, away from danger.


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