Japan has been placed in the “group of death” of Spain, Germany, and Costa Rica in the group league. Japan’s goal is to advance to the last eight, but in reality, even qualifying is in jeopardy.
What will it take for Japan to advance to the final eight? Yahiro Kazama, who has built Kawasaki Frontale into a winning team, emphasizes the importance of ball control.
Against a strong opponent, it is difficult for Japan to have the ball,” he said. It is important not to let the opponent do what they want, assuming that they will play defense. In order to do so, it is necessary to press aggressively from the opponent’s position. It is inevitable that the opponent will have the ball, but it is dangerous when the percentage of possession is over 60%, which means that the defense from the front is not working. Ideally, you want to keep the ratio around 55% to 45%. We have to figure out what we need to do to achieve an aggressive defense.”
As the core of the defense, Kazama expects the two national warriors to be inspired.
The most important player is midfielder Wataru Endo (29),” Kazama said. He has the highest number of duel victories in the Bundesliga this season, which is a measure of his strength against opponents. He is also a key member of the national team’s defense. Morita (Hidemasa, 27), who plays in the Portuguese league, is also strong in one-on-one play and can also score. If, in addition to the two midfielders, Kisei Ueda (24) and Maeda, both of whom are playing well in the Belgian league, continue to press from the front, even a powerful nation will not be able to easily keep pace with them.
Theoretically, it is possible, but whether it can be accomplished is another matter. In addition, the World Cup is a time of unique tension for the players. Masayuki Okano, a former Japan national team goalkeeper nicknamed “Nomoto,” offers tips on how to control the mentality of the players.
Once you have prepared well in advance, I think it’s a matter of how much you can be an idiot in the game without thinking about anything else. Rather than being cool, you have to express what you can do on the pitch. Players who get nervous easily should touch the ball as soon as possible. The more times you touch the ball, the less nervous you will be.
When I asked the two players about their outlook for the preliminary league, they both predicted a win, a loss, and a draw for second place. Kazama said, “The key will be the third round.
The key will be the third game against Spain. If we can thoroughly implement our tactics, there is a good chance we can win.
Mr. Okano also gave his encouragement based on his own experience.
In soccer, you never know what will happen. So Japan has a good chance. I hope you will believe in yourself and your teammates and fight.
If Japan plays with confidence and aggressive pressing, the door to the final tournament will naturally open for them.
From the December 2 and 9, 2022 issues of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Koki Nagahama (Endo, Morita) Laci Perenyi (Moriyasu)