First 10 minutes: First chance of the match went to Tunisia after a corner kick. Tunisia ST Ahmed Akaichi controlled the second ball in the box, but couldn’t get enough power or accuracy on his shot. Overall, both team are still looking for their feet, but Japan’s passing along their back line looks shaky. GK Gonda had to be quick to come off of his line to clear a bad back pass.
In the 20th minute, Fujiharu got past his marker, but the ball got stuck at his feet and he lost possession. If Fujiharu can get behind Tunisia’s RB with his speed, this will help create more chances.
21st minute: Muto found himself in space in Tunisia’s penalty area, but Tunisia’s defense recovered and Japan won a corner kick. From Kiyotake’s corner kick, ST Kawamata got a header off in the box but his shot hit the crossbar.
23rd minute: Kiyotake gets by Tunisia’s Abdennour and is fouled. Abdennour gets a yellow card and Kiyotake sets up the free kick. Kiyotake sends a nice ball into the penalty area and Yoshida tries to get on the end of hit, however, Yoshida lacks technique and doesn’t connect. The ball finds its way to Fujiharu rushing in from outside of the penalty area, but his shot sails over the goal.
29th minute: Kawamata receives a nice through pass from Nagai and finds himself in a dangerous position. However, Tunisia’s defense recovers and Kawamata gets bodied off of the ball. In Kawamata’s defense, no other Japanese players were close enough to support him in this situation. If Muto or Kiyotake had been making a supporting run, this play would have become a scoring chance.
32nd minute: From a through in, Nagai hits a soft, one time pass to Hasebe, who made a run towards Tunisia’s goal line. Hasebe then hit a negative ball back towards center of the penalty area where Kiyotake was running. Kiyotake then hit a one-time shot, but it lacked power.
1st Half Observations:
1. Tunisia put high-pressure on Japan’s defensive line at times to prevent Japan from keeping possession and to also sniff out a quick, short-counterattack.
2. Kiyotake’s corner kicks and free kicks are creating chances for Japan.
3. Japan’s attackers have nice movement in front of Tunisia’s penalty area. At times, Kawamata will make check-runs to drop below Kiyotake to receive passes. By doing this, he draws a central defender with him creating space for Kiyotake, Muto, or Nagai to make an inside run.
4. Tunisia seems to be lacking aggression overall. Maybe they were analyzing the way Japan would play under their new manager because all of Japan’s training sessions were closed to the media.
Keys for Success in the 2nd Half:
1. Finishing Touch – Japan has not been able to create a clear-cut chance in the first half. They have had half-chances, but these half-chances are half-chances because Japan lacks quality in the finishing department.
2. Utilize speed – In my opinion, Japan has a speed advantage on the flanks with Fujiharu (LB) on the left and Nagai (RW) on the right. However, they aren’t being used enough to threaten Tunisia’s defense. For these two to be effective, Japan needs to use Kawamata (ST), Muto (LW), or Kiyotake (CAM) as “bait” to draw defenders out of position. If Fujiharu or Nagai can find space, players who were bait can now turn the switch on and become dangerous.
3. Stay organized in the back. In the first 20 minutes, there were a couple scenes where Japan’s defensive looked shaky, but as time went by, they found their feet and looked organized.
4. Usami!!! Usami!!! Usami!!! I have a feeling that Usami will deliver if he is given a chance to play tonight.
1. Get the ball in dangerous areas – The majority of Tunisia’s possession has been on their defensive line, and this is easy to defend against. So, players off the ball need to lose their markers and pass the ball quickly through the midfield to create chances.
2. Flair – Tunisia is a team with players who can entertain (ex. Chikhaoui), but these players haven’t found the ball at their feet long enough, or at all, to create anything.