Japan: As I mentioned in the Match Report for the Montedio Yamagata vs. Kawasaki Frontale match, Frontale’s Yu Kobayashi went down with an injury. Just as I expected, he’ll be out for at least 4 weeks with a pulled hamstring.
Article on Yu Kobayashi’s Injury (In Japanese)
This article says that Kobayashi was injured while tracking back to defend a Yamagata counterattack; however, he was actually trying to find an advanced position up field to launch a counterattack (I saw the game and was writing the match report while watching, so my analysis is accurate).
Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa not in the starting line-up is something the Japanese media will definitely pick up on, but I think it’s essential for other players to show what they can do on the international stage.
Starting Formation: 4-2-3-1
(Profile pictures from JFA website)
GK: Shuichi Gonda
LB: Hiroki Fujiharu
CB: Tomoaki Makino
CB: Maya Yoshida
RB: Hiroki Sakai
CM: Hotaru Yamaguchi
CM: Makoto Hasebe
LW: Yoshinori Muto
CAM: Hiroshi Kiyotake
RW: Kensuke Nagai
ST: Kengo Kawamata
The Japanese media focused mainly on what the offense will look like, but I think attention should be focused on the defense. Hiroki Fujiharu (Gamba Osaka) gets his first cap, Makino is recalled for the first time in 1.5 years, and Hiroki Sakai finally gets a start after backing up for both Atsuto Uchida and Gotoku Sakai. Their chemistry, or lack of, is a major focal point for the match.
Key Player: Yoshinori Muto
Muto is currently the leading goalscoring in the J.League with 3 goals. He took the J.League by storm during his rookie year last season. Players have breakout years during their first season because they are unmarked, meaning opponents have little data and experience playing against this rookie. It is also not rare to see hot rookies fade out during their sophomore year because other teams will heavily mark them. However, Muto shows no signs for this “sophomore year hangover” and has shown that he has matured and evolved.
Tunisia: Tunisia’s manager is Georges Leekens (Belgium). How he uses his relatively young squad is a point of interest. Tunisia is currently ranked 25th in the world (Japan is 53nd). Tunisia has a solid defense and can create chances quickly with their good individual skill, so Japan will have their hands full.
Starting Formation: 4-2-3-1 (From what I have seen in the first minute because the Japanese media have not even made an effort to show what formation [only a starting member list] Tunisia is actually using)
Key Player: Yassine Chikhaoui
Chikhaoui has very good technique, so he is very dangerous with the ball at his feet. If Japan gives him too much time and space with the ball, he will create chances. He is currently plying his trade in Switzerland with FC Zurich, but I think he has the potential and ability to play for a bigger club in Europe.
As expected, the Japanese media has focused only on their own team. I would have like to see more info about the Tunisia National Team because they have some quality players and Japan needs to know more about the soccer of other countries in order to get stronger.
Will Manager Halilhodžić’s experimental squad compete with Tunisia’s young, yet experienced squad? This has the potential to be an entertaining match.
Stay tuned for a halftime report and post match report!