Matsui, Morimoto under the selection spotlight
March 1, 2010: Even though both teams have already qualified for the Asian Cup finals in Doha next January, the Japan-Bahrain match on Wednesday night will still be significant for at least two of the Japanese players coming back from Europe.
I am thinking of Daisuke Matsui and Takayuki Morimoto, whose places in the final squad for South Africa are far from assured.
Even though many fans believe - or maybe “hope” would be more appropriate -- Morimoto can be the saviour of the team, due to the potential he shows with Catania in Italy, the hard, cold facts of his national team career provide a sobering thought. So far, Morimoto has made only two appearances for Japan, as a substitute against Scotland and then as a starting member against Togo.
Although he scored a nice goal against Togo, the quality of the opposition left much to be desired and the 5-0 scoreline was one of the most lop-sided matches the national team must have ever played.
In Morimoto's favour, of course, is the dearth of quality strikers around in Japan, but he still needs to do a bit more for the national team to cement his place in the World Cup squad. A solid performance, some power and some presence in leading the line against Bahrain, is what Takeshi Okada will be looking for, and obviously a goal or two from Morimoto would help to seal the deal.
As for Matsui, he still blows hot and cold for the national team, and Okada has been very patient with him when he has not been producing. Similar to Okubo, in fact.
Matsui always looks the part - great touch, good movement, dangerous and lively - but the end product is often missing. I still feel he needs to cut down on the flashy stuff and show more substance, and this competitive match with Bahrain will give him the chance to do just that.
Of the other players called back from Europe, Hasebe and Honda are assured of their places in South Africa, and will not be under the same kind of pressure as Matsui and Morimoto.
So there is still much to play for, even though the job of qualifying has been completed by both teams.
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