Thursday, June 8, 2006

Japan Update

Japan Update
Zico Rips into Bastian Schweinsteiger

Japan coach Zico tore into Bayern Munich star Bastian Schweinsteiger for his egregious foul from behind on Japan wingback Akira Kaji. In a friendly less than a week before tomorrow's World Cup kickoff, Japan held host Germany to a 2-2 draw. Germany played well in the second half, but was fortunate not to lose to the quicker Japanese. Japan played well in the first half, in particular, but was quite unfortunate due to the probable loss of Kaji.

In the first half, Schweinsteiger scythed down Kaji in a brutal and unnecessary foul. Kaji was carried off on a stretcher and is doubtful for Japan's opener on the 12th against Australia; Schweinsteiger received no warning and is ready for Germany's match against Costa Rica.

"That was an absolutely disgraceful tackle," said Zico. "Kaji got taken down really badly and there is no question in my mind that he [Schweinsteiger] should have been sent off. My heart goes out to the poor lad."

How do you spell overrated: Tsuneyasu Miyamoto

At the same press conference, Japan captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto seconded the opinion. Center back Miyamoto has achieved Godlike status in Japan, having been annointed the team's designated "hero" by the rabid Japanese media. His face can be found on signs and billboards and newspapers and television ads nationwide. Unfortunately for all involved, however, Miyamoto cannot defend, and is likely to be the source of much disappointment in the weeks to come.

The English-speaking upper middle class preppie out of Doshisha University is attractive and pleasant. He is clearly grooming himself (and being groomed) for future leadership positions in Japanese soccer. He is polite and mouths the usual platitudes in interviews, which often bear no relation to the abstract concept called the truth.

Which is why we love Hidetoshi Nakata. Nakata is the anti-Miyamoto. Though he is also intelligent and attractive, Nakata can play and he speaks his mind. And he hates the Japanese media. Watch the dynamics on the field between the two. Former captain Nakata berates Miyamoto for his errors--mental and tactical--and, on the field and out of earshot, Miyamoto is not his usual polished and politic self. He comes back at the Nakata with comments that won't find their way into the mainstream press.

Their relationship could be the key to Japan's success or failure.

And of course the tricky issue of scoring goals.

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