Well that was a highly interesting last 16 clash in the World Cup today. I am going to give Daizen Maeda a whole article to himself, but it has to be said that whilst he was on the park he was just brilliant. He gave Japan the lead and was a constant thorn in the sides of the Croat defenders. I was baffled when they took him off. I’m still baffled.
Juranovic was solid without being spectacular. That’s what we’ve come to expect from him. He is Mr Dependable in the right back area, and although I think that his passing and his awareness of where other players are can be suspect sometimes, as you can see in the number of times when he turns the ball over to the opposition, he’s a fine defender who can deliver a good ball into the box at times. He was very good indeed.
Our boys are producing at this World Cup, and although Maeda’s is the first time that one of them has taken a game by the scruff of the neck (as the only striker that’s what you would expect) they have all been solid when they’ve been drafted.
The only Ibrox player at the tournament got his chance to shine today too though and he was … well, if there’s a word worse than awful (which is readable before the watershed) then you can replace mine with that one. Because yeah … not great.
In fact, he was so bad that the commentators made more than one allusion to how awful a game he was having. Virtually every single Japanese move of note came down that left side where he looked slow and out of shape. More than once the commentary team commented on that. More than once they commented on his fitness.
At one point they said he would be having nightmares about the Japanese player who had terrorised him all day. “Or the back of him anyway,” the reporter said, in reference to the amount of times the guy had breezed past him with the ball.
The Japanese went out, in the end, on penalties of course and at the end of the game Juranovic, who was left off the list of takers (in the four Croatia took) went over to commiserate with Maeda, who was visibly upset. But he can be very proud tonight.
It was Croatia who went through, and it’s Jiri who will be in the last eight. But the Japanese national coach should be the one answering questions this evening, about his national team selection. They lacked firepower for the whole tournament whilst Kyogo sat here in Scotland, and then with plenty of time left in the match he took off his team’s best attacking threat. It was a strange decision, and one that I think ultimately cost both he and his country.
The Celtic Bhoys did us proud though, but the right back marches on.
And for Barisic? Dear oh dear. The commentator made it clear that he was Croatia’s third choice for the left back berth … they better hope the first two are fit for the quarter finals.