Thailand is currently ranked 120th in the FIFA rankings and their last opponents Saudi Arabia is ranked 61st. The result? Saudi Arabia 1 – 0 Thailand. Thailand gave Saudi Arabia a run for their money and Saudi Arabia grabbed an 84th minute winner from a penalty kick.
So, it is apparent that Thailand will not be easy opposition for Japan. If Japan goes into this match thinking Thailand is an easier opponent than the UAE, they will get a bitter taste of reality. THIS is World Cup qualifying when your region is getting stronger year by year.
After under-par performances from certain players on Japan’s squad, namely CM Makoto Hasebe, CM Ryota Ohshima, CAM: Shinji Kagawa, FW Shinji Okazaki, I would do use the following squad against Thailand:
GK: 12 Shusaku Nishikawa
RB: 19 Hiroki Sakai
CB: 22 Maya Yoshida
CB: 6 Masato Morishige
LB: 21 Gotoku Sakai
CM: 4 Keisuke Honda
CM: 17 Makoto Hasebe
RW: 10 Shinji Kagawa
CAM: 13 Hiroshi Kiyotake
LW: 11 Takashi Usami
FW: 20 Yoshinori Muto
At the moment, Nishikawa looks to be the only GK to get any playing time because, like I mentioned in a previous post, he has the most experience and he is building chemistry with current defenders.
2. Central Defenders
The only realistic options are to stick with Masato Morishige and Maya Yoshida. Personally, I am not a big fan of Maya Yoshida because he is not good with the ball at his feet, he has low concentration levels, and he does not have the best decision-making skills. In the current squad, the only other options would be Naomichi Ueda and Yuichi Maruyama, but these lack experience.
3. Lack of Center Midfielders
Captain Makoto Hasebe’s play was below average and his partner in the deep central midfield position Ryota Ohshima also looked unstable. However, Japan is extremely short on center midfielders at the moment. Currently, the only players who Manager Halilhodžić would play at CM are Wataru Endo and the injured Hotaru Yamaguchi. Gaku Shibasaki not being called up into the squad might come back to bite Manager Halilhodžić in the butt. I am really skeptical of Manager Halilhodžić’s squad selection ability. Gaku Shibasaki looked to be one of the more solid players on the national team for years to come, but he is not in the squad to start World Cup Qualifying? This is why I am so adamant to play Keisuke Honda at CM. He is the only player, in the current squad, to play CM and produce the goods.
4. Attacking Midfielders
Shinji Kagawa at RW will draw attention on the flank and would give CAM Hiroshi Kiyotake and RB Hiroki Sakai a lot of room to operate. Also, Kagawa is not the playmaker the current squad needs at the CAM position; the play capable of playing this position is Hiroshi Kiyotake. Out in the LW position is Usami. When Usami came on for Japan in the 2nd half against the UAE, he showed an aggressiveness to go to goal which Kiyotake does not show, because Kiyotake is a playmaker and Usami is a winger/inside forward.
5. Lone Striker
My starting 11 is almost identical to the starting 11 I would have sent out against the UAE, except for Muto starting up top as the lone striker.
There are people in Japan who call Shinji Okazaki a poacher with a keen sense for goal. Yes, he does have a nose for goal, but from a tactical point of view, Okazaki is a defensive forward because of the amount of defensive responsibilities he takes on.
On the other hand, Muto is an advanced forward. He spearheads attacks, brings in other attackers into attacks, and also looks for goal which is priority #1.
Tomorrow night’s match will be an interesting one which I am looking forward to.