Saturday, June 26, 2010

Group E Decided! Oranje And Blue Advance

How different can a month make?  About three weeks ago, Japanese coach Takeshi Okada was under so much fire that he had offered his resignation after a dreadful defeat to South Korea. Japan went into the World Cup at the back of four matches and were low in confidence. But Okada knew he had a good team and was confident with his team. The best decision he has made is to push Keisuke Honda into a lone striker position. This is what he said at the time,
"The good thing about him is his ability to create goalscoring situations and his physical strength. He can probably be more lively through the middle."
Honda has scored two goals already in this World Cup, as Japan cruise into the last 16. He scored a Ronaldo-esque free kick against Denmark and generally terrorized the Danish defence. Japan's other deadball specialist, Yasuhito Endo also displayed his skill, using the Jabulani's unpredictability to great effect.

Keisuke Honda is revelling being at the sharp end of Japan's attack. His intelligent movement is a great complement for the passing skills of Endo, Matsui and even Nakamura. He also cuts a self confident figure, telling Shinji Okazaki,
“I will score a goal and you have to score another after you are sent in,’”

The Netherlands made it three wins out of three with a workmanlike win over Cameroon. The Oranjemen became only the second team in the group phases to register 100% record, apart from Argentina. However, their lack of directness may yet be a weakness. The reliance on the pace and direct running of Arjen Robben was further confirmed when the Dutch looked more dangerous once Robben came on. It was his rebounded shot that resulted in Huntelaar's winner.

The Oranjemen now faces Slovakia in the last 16. They will look forward to a real chance of making the quarterfinal stage of the World Cup.  The Dutch will be the overwhelming favourites to beat The Repre. That overconfidence must be kept in check and if the Dutch continue to be patient, they should reach the last eight.

The Blue Samurais have been solid in defence in the group phases, only letting in two goals. Okada's tactics have worked thus far. The Japanese have their most talented group of players and their progress into the last 16 confirmed this. In players like Endo, Tulio, Honda, Nakamura and Matsui, they have players who can create a moment's magic and change a match in Japan's favour. Paraguay awaits Okada's men.

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