In the usual prelude for the next year’s World Cup, the Confederations Cup hits Brazil launching on next Saturday 15th June.
Since 2005, the Confederations Cup tournament has been held every four years, in the year prior to each World Cup in the host country of the forthcoming biggest tournament of them all.
Considered a dress-rehearsal for the World Cup it precedes, it uses around half of the stadia intended for use at the following year’s competition and gives the host nation, who qualifies for that tournament automatically, experience at a high level of competition during two years of otherwise international friendlies.
Therefore over the fifteen days, the best teams from their respective continents compete for the gold and see for an extensive preview from our excellent team of writers.
Here is our first part with the excellent Kyle Sennikoff and Alan Gibson looking at Brazil and Japan.
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Luiz Felipe Scolari is currently in his second term managing the A Seleção, as they are so called in their home country. Despite having all the highly rated talent in their squad, the friendlies have not gone how they would have hoped, except for thrashing a talented France squad 3-0 this past weekend.
A few weekends ago Brazil drew with the English national team with a score of two all at the new Maracana. The national team needed that victory over France because people who followed the team closely was beginning to get worried after results against top opponents did not go as expected. They got their first victory of 2013 when they defeated underdogs Bolivia, four goals to nil, after drawing with Russia and Italy, and losing to England, 2-1, in the United Kingdom.
Brazil are the two time defending Confederations Cup champions and are looking for their third in a row. The squad is loaded, just as you would assume a Brazil squad would be. From Neymar, to Hulk, to Oscar, to Fred, the list goes on and on and on with the amount of depth that they have. But if they are lacking at a certain position, it would be the striker role.
Yes, Fred has performed consistently for the national side, but if he gets injured that is about it for their main strikers, outside of Jô, who really has not shown his true form yet for the Brazilian national team like he should be doing. It is going to be interesting to see where he plays all of his midfielders with the sheer volume of attacking midfielders, specifically, that they have.
The likes of Oscar, Neymar, Hulk, Fernando, Luiz Gustavo, Hernanes, Jadson, can all play everywhere on the pitch. Scolari will have to solidify his starting eleven before the Confederations Cup begins if they hope to beat the defending World Cup and European Champions. However, one thing that Brazil does have as an advantage is that they are the two time defending Confederation Cup Champions.
The Brazilian national squad do have a fairly challenging group on their hands and will definitely have to play well against the likes of Mexico and Japan. Fortunately, Mexico has been slipping a little bit in their World Cup Qualification having only won one match and drawing their last four with a game on hand to the United States in the hexagonal qualifying group. Japan is a nation that is certainly on the rise with a lot of their young starlets going over to the German Bundesliga to further develop and hone their skills to prune them for the national team.Italy will be the toughest squad they face in their having drawn once already with them leading up to this tournament at the Stamford Bridge in London.
Spain are bound to be the likely Champions of this tournament especially after winning the last two major tournaments, despite not having a good running in the last couple of tournaments. But, being on home soil, the nation of Brazil will look to upset the Spanish on their home soil to win their third straight Confederation Cup.
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Immediately following Japan’s qualification for Brazil 2014, when he was interviewed, Keisuke Honda told the listening audience that, while no one around the world might be expecting much, Japan was going to the Confederations Cup 2013 to win! At that point, serious Samurai Blue watchers knew there was to be no experimentation – or at least nothing major. And, sure enough, although the Confederations Cup squad registration deadline was before the Australia match, the actual squad wasn’t announced until after the match was in the bag.
And, yes, the only two new faces in the 26 that were named to train for the Australia match were nowhere to be found – confirming the fact that they had just been there to fill seats on the bus while Honda (Russia) and Gotoku Sakai and Shinji Okazaki (Germany) were delayed due to cup finals in their respective countries.
Uncapped players Masato Kudo and Keigo Higashi, as well as versatile full back Yuichi Komano – who has 74 caps – were left at home when the squad moved to Doha for the Iraq World Cup Qualifier.
Japan-watchers were disappointed that Kudo was not given a chance to show what he can do at the tournament in Brazil, and probably even more disappointed that the likes of Cerezo Osaka’s Yoichiro Kakitani or Kashima Antlers’ Yuya Osaka, even Hisato Sato of Sanfrecce Hiroshima – last season’s top scorer in J1 – do not even seem to have been considered.
So, no new faces leaves less room for experimentation.
While fans of Alberto Zaccheroni’s team – Zac Japan – are happy to see anyone in the blue shirt and will chant their support for 90 minutes and more – the real fans of the game, those of us looking to the future, REALLY wanted to see some new faces in for the meaningless Iraq WCQ and the, let’s face it, in the end, meaningless Confederations Cup! Honda has now raised expectations and Zac will be left with no choice but to put out his best team – and if that “best team” includes the off-form Ryoichi Maeda, that’s a space wasted, in the opinion of many!
Japan’s problem is goalscoring/finishing….. the creative element is there in abundance with Honda, Shinji Kagawa, Hiroshi Kiyotake and more in midfield, as well as the likes of Yuto Nagatomo and Atsuto Uchida attacking on the flanks (and Yasuhito Endo has not even been mentioned yet!), but that final killer instinct is rarely seen in a Japanese player and Maeda and 194cm Mike Havenaar don’t really have it in the blue of Japan. Okazaki is the closest Japan has to a predator – many of his goals are instinctive and from close range so perhaps he should be pushed up top and an additional creative midfielder brought in?
With the failure of Japanese “centre forwards” to shine for the national team, due to many factors, including the lack of choice of any big centre forwards in Japan, anyway – through the over-reliance on Brazilian forwards, to the general lack of height of the Japanese, to the coaching (and I am not saying this is a bad thing) relying on the skill and passing techniques that we know the Japanese DO have in abundance, maybe it is time to go for the “zero top” or “false nine” that would suit Japan down to (or rather ON) the ground. I can’t see this happening, but it is something I would love to see for Japan.
As it is – without a killer centre forward – you’ll see plenty of skill, plenty of passing, controlled movement but it’s goals that Japan need. If the goals come Honda may well prove to be prescient… but without those goals, japan will be just another pretty passing team, not living up to their full potential. And, as I finally mention who Japan are up against – Brazil, Italy and Mexico – we can see that goals are needed.
It is time for Japan to step up and be counted. IF there is to be no experimentation, then Japan has to be looking to get out of that group, then, as we all know, anything can happen in knockout games.
Let’s have some GOALS, please, boys!
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