As good as Japan were in reaching the second stages of the World Cup – and especially in beating Spain and Germany along the way to getting there – one question must haunt their national coach; with a little more firepower, could they have gotten a little bit further?
I thought they were brilliant overall, but they lacked that one thing that separates good sides from great sides; they lacked the cutting edge, and especially yesterday where they had Croatia on the ropes for large parts of the game but couldn’t kill them off.
“If only,” I thought, “there was a guy available who had scored extensively in Japan and then moved to Europe and scored there too.” And of course, there was, or at least there had been, before the competition squads were selected before it began.
Japan left Kyogo Furuhashi behind. And they left Reo Hatate in Scotland as well. Paradoxically, they took with them the guy most Celtic fans thought was the weakest pick of the three. He was brilliant yesterday, but in the latter stages of that game you wondered what they wouldn’t have given to have Kyogo or Reo on the bench.
I have some sympathy with the Japanese coach, who did have some fine footballers in midfield which possibly made the decision to leave Hatate home somewhat easier to understand. The particular star of the Japanese team has been Wataru Endo, of Stuttgart, their defensive midfielder, who was absolutely brilliant yesterday and didn’t lose a ball.
But I wondered what sort of balance Hatate would have given that midfield, playing alongside him.
Our boy has proved not only to be technically skilled but with an eye for goal. I know for sure that although they have some fine forwards that Kyogo would have been a real asset to them during that game … and may even have got them through.
We saw the way they played yesterday; there is real brilliance in that side and they simply lacked that little extra spark up front. Kyogo himself, as I wrote yesterday, thinks the failure to select him is due to his own inability to get a Champions League goal. He might well be right, but that’s still a particularly short-sighted decision from the national coach.
Kyogo has 31 goals in 53 games for us. It’s formidable.
He had 50 in 111 games in for Kobe, his previous side. His record is great.
He’s a natural striker.
It is quite amazing that he was left out of the team. I cannot believe he wouldn’t have offered them something more upfront, and that debate will be raging fiercely in their media, once the initial pride subsides.
These guys will have other chances, but by the time the next World Cup comes around Kyogo will be 31. This would have been his optimal moment, and that he’s not despondent over that speaks to his mental strength … all the more reason to have selected him.
As good as it was to see Maeda doing so well, I think Japan’s campaign was a case of “what might have been?” … and I can’t help thinking that the question would have been answered had the coach been able to utilise the talents of the two he left behind.