[Soccer in the U.S. vs Japan] A look at Jurgen Klinsmann’s Interview

U.S. Soccer

Here is an interview U.S. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann:

He mentions 3 things to get the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMT) “out of their comfort zone”:

1. Integrate new players
2. Try out different systems
3. Play in Europe or other countries

Klinsmann also recognizes that by doing these three things, he is risking results.

Getting the USMT out of their comfort zone and risking results will eventually lead to the growth of the team, and this is Jurgen Klinsmann’s philosophy.

He then says, “If we would just be comfortable and play all of our games in the U.S. against teams that we would most likely beat, there is no growth.”

Then Klinsmann goes on to explain more positives of taking the team in a new direction:

1. Finding new strong players
2. Getting more dynamic competition within the circle of the national team
3. Finding/helping younger players come through the system

These things will lead to a stronger U-23 Olympic Squad and also help find players for the 2015 U-20 World Cup in New Zealand.

This is the situation in the United States.

Japanese Soccer

I have made posts at the end of last month concerning the Manager Halilhodžić’s new regime with the Japanese National Team.

Manager Halilhodžić’s and Manager Klinsmann’s philosophies are quite similar in my opinion.

1. Integrate new players: Manager Halilhodžić brought new players and brought in players who were out of the fold, and this seemed to create a more competitive atmosphere within each player.  A good example is Kengo Kawamata. Unable to score a goal in his first match against Tunisia, he came on as a late second half substitute and scored his first international goal.  Another example is Takashi Usami, who had been left out of the national team for almost 2 years but never made a single appearance when he was called up.  He showed that he is an impact player when he was brought into a match.

2. Try out different systems: Now, this is something that Manager Halilhodžić hasn’t tried out in a strictly formational sense.  Japan has been playing a 4-5-1 (4-2-3-1, 4-1-2-2-1, etc) for many years now.  Since Manager Okada’s 2nd term as manager if memory serves me right.  So, Japan has been running variations of a 4-5-1 formation for more than 5 years. Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken?  Well, Japan’s lackluster performance in the 2014 World Cup and underwhelming performance in this years Asian Cup shows that things needed to change.  Even though Japan is still going with a 4-2-3-1 (4-5-1 variant), the team’s philosophies and player instructions has changed greatly in my eyes.  It will be interesting to see how Japan’s players adjust to Manager Halilhodžić’s ever-changing tactical schemes in the future.

3. Play in Europe or other countries:  This is something which is out of Manager Halilhodžić’s hands.  The JFA and Sponsors, such as Kirin and JAL, seem to be in control of these things because Japan always plays international friendlies in Japan and call each match “The Kirin Challenge Cup” or “The JAL Challenge Cup”. The winner of these meaningless ‘cup’ matches get some ‘award’ from each sponsor.  To me, the JFA need to get wise and toss these meaningless ‘cup’ matches out of the window and send the team outside of Asia to play against stronger competition.

Even Japanese people don’t know the history of the Kirin Challenge Cup.  In the beginning, it all started with the Kirin Cup, which is an actually tournament where 4 teams (including Japan) compete for the title.  In my opinion, the beginning of the Kirin Cup was to get Japan some international experience with stronger national teams.  However, stronger national teams would not want to even come to Japan because of the low quality facilities, pitches, and competition.  Therefore, sponsors would step in and add an incentive which would help get competition to come to Japan. This Kirin Cup is the predecessor of the Kirin Challenge cup and other challenge cups like the JAL Challenge Cup.  To reiterate, the JFA needed some leverage or bargaining chip with other national teams to negotiate to even hold an international friendly match in Japan.

However, personally, I am quite tired of watching Japan play these ‘cup’ matches in Japan because it’s always so much about the sponsors.  If the sponsors and JFA really want to create stronger national team, we need to see these men outside of Japan and get them REAL competition.  This is the main reason why the Japanese National Team become impotent when playing in international tournaments held outside of Japan.


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