Oct 14 2014

Neymar scores four against Japan




SINGAPORE, October 14, 2014 – Brazil striker Neymar gave a masterclass in finishing on Tuesday, scoring all four goals as Brazil beat Japan 4-0 in Singapore.

It was always going to be tough for Javier Aguirre’s team against a strong Brazil lineup, but the Mexican manager fielded a very experimental team with only two regulars – striker Shinji Okazaki and goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima – in his lineup.

Early signs were good but on a simply dreadful pitch at Singapore’s national stadium, it was never going to be easy and Japan weren’t helped by some poor defending from Taishi Taguchi, who had a terrible game.

Neymar was into his stride early, claiming a penalty in the first few minutes and then forcing a foul as three Japanese defenders struggled to contain him. Neymar sent the free-kick against the post from 20 meters, delaying his inevitable appearance on the scoresheet.

That came soon enough. In the 21st minute, Neymar escaped the dozy defending of the Japanese backline, took the ball wide of Kawashima and drilled a shot into the roof of the net.

Neymar rifles in his first goal

Neymar slides in his second goal


Japan had their chances but struggled to find the target. Kobayashi saw a neat 10-meter volley flash past the post in the 24th minute, a strong shot from Gaku Shibasaki flew over the bar six minutes later and Okazaki sent a glancing header wide five minutes after that.

A Junya Tanaka half-chance was desperately cleared by Brazil just before halftime, but defender Shiotani didn’t have the composure to put the rebound on target, allowing Brazil to go into the break 1-0 ahead.

Aguirre brought on Keisuke Honda for largely anonymous Ryota Morioka at halftime, but the first action of the second half saw Brazil go 2-0 up.

More useless defending by Taguchi allowed Neymar a free run at goal and he calmly slid the ball past Kawashima.


Kawashima made up for that with a great save from Miranda, and Okazaki hit the post from a tight angle before Neymar proved he was human and missed an easy chance with just the goal to beat.

Substitutes Coutinho and Robinho also spurred good chances after being set up by Neymar and in the end Brazil’s superstar had to do the hard work himself.

In the 77th minute, Kawashima made a fine save from a Kaka header and then turned away a shot by Coutinho, but the ball ran to Neymar who had an easy finish from close range for his hat trick.

But he wasn’t finished. Brazil swept up the field in the 81st minute and Kaka lifted the ball to the back post for the unmarked Neymar to head in No. 4.

Japan fought a little harder in the dying minutes and Yoichiro Kakitani got a great head on Kosuke Ota’s cross in the 89th minute only to see it tipped over by Brazil keeper Jefferson.




The result was not much of a surprise but the gap between the major footballing powers and Japan remains big. Aguirre reckons his players play with passion, but who’s he trying to kid? The likes of Shibasaki, Kakitani and Taguchi (not to mention Atsuto Uchida and Yuto Nagatomo) have all the passion of Japanese schoolboys.

Japan have an attitude problem, i.e., they don’t have one. Aguirre needs to pump his players up, not blow smoke up their arse. Enough of the Zicos and Zaccheronis; Japan need a boss with anger. Get angry, Javier….

Oct 10 2014

Japan bore their way to 1-0 win over Jamaica

Screenshot 2014-10-10 22



Niigata, Japan, October 10, 2014 – Japan managed to get their first win under new coach Javier Aguirre on Friday, but the 1-0 victory over Jamaica at Niigata’s Big Swan Stadium was underwhelming at best, with the goal coming from an unfortunate defensive mishap.

To be fair to Aguirre, he’s still looking for his best lineup and against Jamaica he mixed some of his more experienced stars – Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda, Shinji Okazaki – with a bunch of relative newcomers: Tsukasa Shiotani, Masato Morishige, Gaku Shibasaki, Yoshinori Muto.

Obviously, this wasn’t his best lineup. His formation was initially 4-3-3 with Hajime Hosogai as the sole holding midfielder but looked more like 3-5-2 in the second half. Not that it made a difference.

Honda danced around like Honda does, Kagawa was back to his Japan/Manchester United mindset, Shibasaki was largely ineffective in the playmaker’s role and Muto couldn’t cut it up front. Yuto Nagatomo and Gotoku Sakai put in some random crosses from the wings to no effect while Shusaku Nishikawa had virtually nothing to do in goal. Morishige was OK in the middle of defence while Shiotani didn’t put a foot wrong and was the only Japan player to really shine on the day.

Jamaica tried their best and at least gave Japan a physical test, but in terms of technique and quality they are way down the totem pole. They would have done better to have tried to pressure Japan with Route 1 football rather than try to out-finesse their technically superior hosts. Sometimes primitive works.

So Japan weren’t likely to lose the game, but they still struggled to win it.

Japan looked slightly more convincing early in the game. Muto had a good chance in the fourth minute but wanted too much time, while Honda forced Jamaica keeper Ryan Thompson into a great save from a smart free-kick in the sixth minute. Kagawa came up with a rasping 30-meter bomb on the quarter-hour mark but saw it flash past the post. But a minute later, Japan were in front.

Shibasaki got the ball on the right of the box and delivered a low ball in that Thompson could only parry against Nyron Nosworthy and the ball ran off his body into the net from a few meters out.

Jamaica made some good saving tackles in the game and Jermaine Taylor did brilliantly to stop Honda in the 23rd minute.

Sakai cut in well before unleashing a 25-meter shot in the 25th minute, but it went straight to the keeper and the full-back then set up Honda with a golden chance, but the AC Milan midfielder scooped the ball onto the bar as he tried to lift it over the keeper.

Okazaki had two attempts just before the break, including a reasonable overhead kick, but neither troubled the Jamaicans.

Jamaica brought on Michael Seaton and Darren Mattocks for the second half but still struggled to threaten the Japan goal.

Japan, meanwhile, continued to create chances and continued to waste them. Muto misfired on three occasions, while Okazaki tried hard but couldn’t find the answer either.

After Kagawa sent a side-foot shot wide in the 65th minute, Wes Morgan saw a header loop onto the top of the net, while a 25-meter effort from Je-Vaughn Watson didn’t get near the target. Seaton followed up with a nice run at goal but couldn’t find an end product.

Another great tackle – this time by Morgan – prevented Kagawa from extending Japan’s lead and Thompson did well to stop Yu Kobayashi’s shot on the turn in the 72nd minute.

Nagatomo tried to gift Jamaica a goal in the 79th minute with a suicidal back pass to the unmarked Lawrence but the Jamaican wasn’t sharp enough to take advantage of Nagatomo’s gift and Morishige came in to clear the danger.

Three minutes after being booked for a foul on Hosogai, Watson escaped a red card after back-handing Shiotani in the face, but the ref didn’t see it; most likely he’d fallen asleep, too.

There was little to celebrate for either side in this dance of under-achievement. Japan would do better losing to better opposition, as they probably will when they face Brazil in Singapore in four days’ time.


Sep 9 2014

Blunders cost Japan as they draw with Venezuela


Yuya Osako was taken off at halftime.


YOKOHAMA, Japan, September 9, 2014 – Defensive mistakes spoiled Javier Aguirre’s second game in charge of Japan as his team twice let leads slip away in a 2-2 draw with Venezuela at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama.

After their 2-0 defeat to Uruguay in Sapporo on Friday, Japan started off brightly enough with Keisuke Honda firing just over the bar after 12 seconds. But it was a bit of a false dawn as the first half descended into a scrappy contest.

Venezuela’s Rosales forced Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima into a good save after 11 minutes, while Mario Rondon’s volley went wide in the 24th minute.

Kawashima was again called into action to save from a decent effort by Rondon on the half-hour mark after some some poor play by Hosogai let the Venezuelans in.

Venezuela continued to carve out chances but luckily for Japan the next three went off target.

Japan sparked only occasionally but a nice move in the 38th minute forced a save out of the Venezuela keeper Herndandez.

Aguirre realised changes were necessary at the break and took off the lightweight pair of Yoichiro Kakitani and Yuya Osaka in favour of Shinji Okazaki and Yoshinori Muto.

The change paid off quickly for Japan.

Six minutes into the second half, Muto seized on a poor clearance from Venezuela, sprinted forward 30 meters and rifled in a left-foot shot from just outside the box.

Things were looking up and Maya Yoshida showed his confidence with a superb covering tackle in the 54th minute on Mario Rondon.

But three minutes later his fellow defender Hiroki Mizumoto let him down. The Japanese defender allowed Guerra to rob him of the ball in the middle of the park and after a chase into the box, brought him down.

Rondon stroked the penalty down the middle to make the score 1-1.

Suddenly, the game was livelier. Honda was able to be more involved than the first half when there was no pattern to Japan’s attacking play, Muto was looking confident and Yuto Nagatomo started to make more runs down the left in conjunction with Okazaki.

And it was Okazaki who turned it on for Japan’s second goal in the 67th minute. He sped down the left and put in a hopeful ball to the center where Gaku Shibasaki was on hand to sweep the ball home with a nicely controlled downward shot from 10 meters.

After Vizcarrondo brought down Muto just outside the box, Honda had a chance to put the poor free-kicks from Friday’s game against Uruguay behind him and he did well but saw his shot rebound off the inside of the post.

That was to prove costly when Cichero unleashed a speculative shot at the Japan goal in the 71st minute. Kawashima had it covered all the way but let it slip through his gloves to make the score 2-2.

Kawashima made up for that with a neat save from a Rosales long shot in the 84th minute, but Japan couldn’t pull another goal back and Aguire will have to wait another month for his first win.

Sep 5 2014

Japan lose to Uruguay on Aguirre’s debut


Tatsuya Sakai loses the ball before Japan’s first goal


By Fred Varcoe

SAPPORO, Japan, Sept. 5, 2014 – Javier Aguirre had a disappointing start to his reign as Japan manager after his side lost 2-0 to Uruguay at the Sapporo Dome on Friday.

Japan gifted Uruguay a goal in each half – Edinson Cavani in the 34th minute and Abel Hernandez in the 71st minute – and struggled to create chances.

Aguirre opted to play with Hiroshima’s Yusuke Minagawa up front and a back four of Yuto Nagatomo, Maya Yoshida, Tatsuya Sakai and Hiroki Sakai. Masato Morishige and Hajime Hosogai played in front of them, with Keisuke Honda, Shinji Okazaki and Sporting Lisbon’s Junya Tanaka providing the attacking impetus in midfield.

Japan started brightly enough and were able to keep Uruguay in their half of the pitch for much of the first half. Okazaki had an early but weak shot, while Honda planted the first of a series of free-kicks in the Uruguay wall.

In the 14th minute, Nicolas Lodeiro took a free-kick and Cristian Rodriguez had a free header but put his effort over the bar from 6 meters out.

Okazaki responded with some dazzling work down the left to give Minagawa a similar chance, but the Sanfrecce Hiroshima striker also headed over.

Japan came under pressure around the 25-minute mark and made a couple of very poor defensive headers, a sign of trouble to come as it turned out.

In the 34th minute, Hiroki Sakai played the ball back to his namesake Tatsuya who had the simple job of controlling the ball and getting rid of it as two Uruguayans bore down on him.

Unfortunately, he failed to cushion the ball and let it run to Cavani, who offloaded it to Diego Rolan. Cavani ran for the rebound before squeezing the ball past goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima and a desperate lunge of atonement from Sakai. Japan 0, Uruguay 1.

To be fair, Japan had acquitted themselves decently up to that point and the game was open, perhaps even there to for the taking by whichever team showed a bit of drive and imagination. Tanaka was looking the most likely to do the job for Japan but he didn’t have enough strong support.

Japan need to find another Yasuhito Endo, a player who can take the ball and distribute it with ease. Japan were also missing Makoto Hasebe in defensive midfield and while Morishige did a decent job, Hosogai still has to turn in a convincing performance for the national team.

Tanaka’s last major contribution was a decent 25-meter shot that went straight to Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera. He was replaced by Yoichiro Kakitani with about a quarter of an hour to go.

Before that, Uruguay had gone 2-0 up. Hiroki Sakai, who had one of the first half’s dodgy headers, inexplicable headed a cross back into his own box. Kawashima made a great save from Lodeiro’s fierce shot but Tatsuya Sakai couldn’t clear the ball and Hernandez rushed in to fire it home from close range.

Honda had time to fire his third crap free-kick into the Uruguay wall as Japan resorted to negative play and didn’t look like scoring.

However, in a rare ray of hope, substitute Yoshinori Muto saw a lovely 25-meter volley bounce off the inside of the post in the 88th minute.

Japan weren’t going to get any closer than that and will have to hope for better luck against Venezuela on Tuesday.