Saturday, June 24, 2006

Japan football team not as great as its goalkeeper's ego

Japan football team
"I made some saves but it didn't appear to help us change the tide of the match and I don't think we were able to get over giving up the equalizer at the end of the first half. On a personal level I feel I have done everything that has been asked of me but I can't do everything on my own."

So said Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, Japan's goalkeeper in the World Cup. This quote really bothered me. Kawaguchi really bothers me, and has done since he first set foot on the Japanese football scene.

In the early days he was all hair flicks and gel (anyone spot the jealousy of a bald man, here?). Always the last man off the pitch, so that he got significant camera time. His gestures were exaggerated. The trademark wince of pain to show just how much he cared. The concentrated stare to show just how much he ... well, concentrated. Everything he did was designed for the cameras, like the ekiden relay runners who insist on falling over in exhaustion after they've run their leg, just to make sure everyone knows they have given their all. Kawaguchi made everyone know that he had given his all. Every wince. Every stare. Every flick of the hair. It was designed to tell a story. The story of a man with an incredible ego.

Unfortunately he hasn't grown up in the intervening years.

"... I can't do everything on my own."

Now who would you normally hear saying that? A harried mother at the end of her tether berating a family of World Cup watching couch potatoes? A boss snarling at incompetent underlings in the office? Or a person with an inflated ego belittling his comrades?

What Kawaguchi is basically saying here is that he is wonderful and the rest of the Japan team are just not up to scratch. He might have something with the latter half of that assessment - Japan were clearly outclassed in Germany. But he is by no means wonderful. A wonderful goalkeeper would not have been third choice for Portsmouth when they were a second-tier club. Nor would a wonderful goalkeeper have been released by them. A wonderful goalkeeper wouldn't have flapped awfully at the cross that led to Australia's equalizing goal, the goal that led directly to the change in Japan's fortunes in this World Cup.

Yes, he did make some fine saves, including a penalty save against Croatia. But he also screwed up on a number of occasions. He, like the rest of his teammates, just weren't up to the job. Simple as that. He was quite right about not being able to do everything on his own. He contributed significantly to Japan's World Cup demise with help from the rest of his teammates.

Copyright (c) jh & Soccerphile.com

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