Thursday, June 22, 2006

Japan ... dead, but not buried yet

Japan v Brazil.
Tonight Japan play Brazil in what will surely be their final game in Germany for a while. There are still a whole host of optimistic (-ally insane??) people in Japan saying that Brazil can be beaten by more than two goals. I met half a dozen who told me so this morning.

But the altogether sane (and frankly rather frightening) bloke next door doesn't think Japan have a hope in hell. Looked at me as if I were mad when I asked him if Japan could do it. Having said that, the TV hosts are hyping Japan's chances, although you can see in their eyes that they don't really believe it.

It all went wrong for Japan with one moment of madness from Kawaguchi, the goalkeeper, against Australia.

Then the confidence, brittle at the best of times, disappeared at haste down the plughole. Tough to blame Kawaguchi really, as he has made some excellent saves, including a great penalty stop against Croatia.

He always has made excellent saves, but unfortunately he has always been awful with crosses and prone to horrendous blunders, too.

It has been a typical Japan performance so far. Not quite good enough. We all knew the attack was impotent before the competition. We all knew Miyamoto was nowhere near good enough to be the lynchpin of a defence that would face serious pressure. And surely everyone has seen Kawaguchi do his sublime-to-ridiculous thing more times than they remember.

So tonight. A last hurrah? A glorious defeat? A famous victory? Whichever it is, it is unlikely Japan will be in the last 16 come tomorrow morning.

Copyright (c) jh & Soccerphile.com

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