Japan: After a promising start for Manager Halilhodžić’s new regime, it will be interesting to see who will get the green light to start tonight’s match.
Personally, I would like to see Usami get his first start for the Samurai Blue because he looked motivated and dangerous during his cameo appearance in the Tunisia match. Also, Manager Halilhodžić also favors a quick, direct attack toward goal; thus, Usami fits this tactical strategy perfectly. In the heart of the midfield, I can’t see captain Makoto Hasebe being sacrificed to give younger players a start, but it would be interesting to see Gaku Shibasaki and Hotaru Yamaguchi team up as CM’s.
As I am typing this report, Japan’s starting line-up was announced.
Usami is not in the starting line-up, unfortunately, but Manager Halilhodžić is going with Yasuyuki Konno and Toshihiro Aoyama in the center of midfield and Gen Shoji gets his first cap and start for the Japanese National Team. With Makoto Hasebe not in the starting line-up, Keisuke Honda takes the captain’s armband.
In the second half, or even at halftime, Usami could come off the bench for Inui.
Starting Formation: 4-2-3-1
(Profile pictures from JFA website)
GK: Eiji Kawashima
RB: Atsuto Uchida
CB: Masato Morishige
CB: Gen Shoji
LB: Gotoku Sakai
CM: Yasuyuki Konno
CM: Toshihiro Aoyama
RW: Keisuke Honda
CAM: Shinji Kagawa
LW: Takashi Inui
ST: Shinji Okazaki
Key Players: Masato Morishige: I am going to watch Morishige’s play closely because he will partner with newcomer Gen Shoji at the heart of Japan’s defense. Morishige will be in charge of controlling Japan’s defensive line, and this is essential for Japan’s attack. Keeping a higher line will keep the field of play more compact; therefore, making short, quick passes more playable through midfield. Also, shifting the defensive line horizontally across the field and keeping defenders compact are also going to be Morishige’s responsibilities.
Toshihiro Aoyama: Aoyama plays simple passes with a very high success rate. Because Japan is looking to play more direct on the attack, Aoyama’s passing ability will be a key factor in tonight’s match. Look for him to play short passes and then hit a long, accurate pass from deep in the midfield directly to the front line of the offense.
Uzbekistan: Definitely not a pushover, Uzbekistan is a team that can strike quickly if given the opportunity. Their squad has a good balance of younger players and veterans; however, their GK’s are all relatively young (23-25 years of age).
Starting Formation: 4-2-3-1
Key Player: Sardor Rashidov: A young attack-minded player who plies his trade in the Uzbek League. Capable of playing both as a ST and MF, I see him as Uzbekistan’s main threat to breakthrough Japan’s defense. Rashidov has speed and a very good left foot. Uzbekistan also has seasoned-veterans in DF Anzur Ismailov MF Azizbek Haydarov; so any complacency from the Japanese squad can be costly.
Stay tuned for a halftime report and post match report!