Special Interview: Former West Germany National Team Member Litvarsky: “Samurais Can Now Fight with the World’s Top Dribblers | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Special Interview: Former West Germany National Team Member Litvarsky: “Samurais Can Now Fight with the World’s Top Dribblers

The genius dribbler who played in three World Cup finals talks all about it

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Ritty currently “takes care of his 92-year-old father and supports his son, who has become a professional soccer player. The dribbling prodigy, who once coached Yokohama FC and Avispa Fukuoka, says, “I love Japanese people and Japanese food. I’m always willing to help if asked.

Before the match, I was hoping for a 2-2 draw, but when I saw the German eleven’s performance in the early stages, I thought, ‘This is going to be difficult. As a German, it is difficult to react, but Japan showed enough potential to compete with the best in the world.

On September 9, Japan’s national team won a 4-1 friendly against Germany in hostile territory, the second gold medal from the four-time World Cup champions following last year’s World Cup in Qatar, but it was not the only victory for Japan, as former West German midfielder Pierre Litvarsky, who played for JEF United Ichihara (now JEF Chiba) in the first year of the J-League in 1993, was also a member of the team. Pierre Litvarsky, 63, a former West German midfielder who played for JEF United Ichihara (now JEF Chiba) in the first year of the J.League in 1993, commented as follows: “I was not surprised.

At last year’s World Cup in Qatar, Germany outshot Japan 26 to 12 in the first half but scored two goals in quick succession in the second half to come from behind and win the match on thin ice. In contrast, this time, Japan took 14 shots to Germany’s 11. Japan had more shots on goal than Germany, with 11 shots on target compared to Germany’s 3.

Japan controlled the game from start to finish. Not only did they defend and then counter (attack quickly), but they also patiently built up from the goalkeeper against Germany’s pressing, and even in tight spaces, they formed triangles (following their teammates) and connected passes quickly. Finally, a side change allowed Kaoru Mitoma (26) on the left and Junya Ito (30) on the right to set up the final goal. It could be said that Japan had a deserved win over Germany.

Japanese players have long been regarded as highly skilled on the ball, but they have struggled to demonstrate this skill in contact-intensive international matches. However, Litvarsky, who has watched Japanese soccer from inside and outside for many years, asserts that “times have changed.

Nowadays, most of the national team players play in Europe’s top leagues. Of the 26 players on this tour, 21 are from Europe, and Litvarsky believes that the growth of each of these players has pushed Japan’s national team to the next level.

Japanese players have always been good at fine passing, but it has not led to attacks. But now they are not nervous when they are pressured by opponents, and they make fewer mistakes. Against Germany, they were able to pass to all angles, including diagonally forward and backward. In particular, his side-change passes, which are effective in attacking, were often low and liner-like, and of high quality.

Litvarsky, who has experienced three World Cup finals as a dribbling prodigy, named seven Samurais that he appreciates.

Mitate has an exquisite choice of dribbling, passing, and shooting in the last 20 meters in front of goal, and he can set up both vertically (from the left flank) and centrally. Ito stood out even more. Ito’s speed and well-timed moves were superb, and his combination with overlapping right back Yusei Sugawara (23) was also excellent. It is no coincidence that both of Japan’s goals in the first half came from the right side. The double volanteau of Wataru Endo (30) and Hidemasa Morita (28) was well-balanced, and Endo’s situational judgment, including his willingness to foul the opposition on occasion to nip an attack in the bud, has increased his one-on-one strength over the past few years.

Toward the end of the first half, Takehiro Tomiyasu (24) made a decisive tackle to prevent Leroy Sané (27, Bayern), one of the fastest players in the Bundesliga, from scoring. The team’s defense was highly praised not only for their individual performances, but also for the team’s overall coordination.

Tomiyasu’s sliding to Sané was amazing (laughs). (Laughs.) Recently, defensive players have been emphasizing build-up techniques, but first of all, it is important not to lose in one-on-one defense. In that respect, both Tomiyasu and Koh Itakura (26) are physically strong and have good positioning. Japan, including its side backs, defended well as an organized team without giving Germany any space.

He also mentioned Kise Ueda (25), the center forward, as the biggest surprise of the tournament.

Ueda was matched up against a strong defender like Rüdiger (30, Real Madrid), but she kept the ball well. The success of players such as Misumi, Ito, and Endo is attracting a lot of attention, but it is important to have players who can hold up the ball up front to make the most of them. Japan has long suffered from the absence of a CF-type player who can be the starting point of an attack up front, and I think Ueda proved to be a player with great potential for Japan.

He also praised the skill of coach Hajime Moriyasu (55), who started with a back four and changed to a back five formation in the second half, saying, “You cannot overlook it.

I spoke with Moriyasu before the match, and he is a rare type of coach who has his own ideas and can take the players’ opinions into account when directing a team. Many coaches of powerful soccer nations do not listen to the opinions of others, but Moriyasu is a man who listens. That is why he is able to change the system in the middle of a match and have the players follow through immediately. Soccer tactics change drastically every four years when the World Cup is held, but Moriyasu has studied the tactical side of the game very well, and this has led to the results.

As for Japan’s long-cherished dream of making the top eight, he laughed bitterly, saying, “We have to believe in our own strength.

Japan did not do badly against Belgium at the World Cup in Russia in 2006 and against Croatia at the World Cup in Qatar last year, when they played for the last eight. There is no Yuto Nagatomo (37) or Maya Yoshida (35) in the national team anymore, but the younger generation is rising in their place. The squad is so well-rounded that Kubo Takefusa (22), Ritsu Doan (25), and Takuma Asano (28) all started on the bench against Germany. They sometimes look confused under high pressure against a strong opponent, but that is a challenge that every team has. When I went to Japan 30 years ago, sports were baseball or sumo. Many people did not know the rules of soccer (laughs). But now, not only the players, but everything related to soccer has grown. The Japanese national team has come to the point where it can compete with the best in the world. This is not flattery.

After losing to Japan, Germany then defeated France, the world’s second-ranked team.

If Japan makes it to the last eight, Litty is sure to say, “I wouldn’t be surprised.

Let Kisei Ueda be the starting point!” Ueda scored the winner in the 22nd minute of the first half of the 1-1 friendly against Germany. It was a different performance from what we have seen in the past.”
Ueda observed Japan’s training session before the friendly against Germany and renewed old friendships with Moriyasu (right), a coach he played against many times during his J-League days.

From the October 6, 2023 issue of FRIDAY

  • Interview and text Masao Kurihara PHOTO Koji Watanabe

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