Japan vs New Zealand
The All Whites were in Tokyo to take on the Samurai Blue of Japan, for their final ‘dress rehearsal’ before they clash in the intercontinental playoff in November. A late winner for Japan finished off the All Whites 2-1, which led to many bittersweet feelings for the Kiwis.
Japan started in a 4231 shape however, defending in much a 4141 which saw #2 Ideguchi drop deep to help build-up play from the back and shield the back line. Kawashima was in goal with Makino and, EPL centre half, Yoshida in front of him. They were flanked by attacked minded full backs, Sakai and veteran Nagatomo. Central midfield saw Ideguchi and Yamaguchi sit behind Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder Kagawa who was their playmaker. Kubo was out on the right wing while Muto was left but interchanged with Osako up top frequently.
New Zealand lined up in a very defensive 532 shape and were comfortable with defending deep and did not press Japan as much as Hudson has had the All Whites do recently. Was very good to see Reid back in the All Whites jersey and he was with two other experienced central defenders of Durante and Boxall who protected Marinovic in goal. Two wing backs joined the back five with Ingham on the right and Colvey on the left who was in for the injured Wynne. Both had license to join in with the counter attacks with Ingham perhaps more eager to get forward than Colvey. A somewhat physically weak midfield trio of Rojas, McGlinchey and Thomas were helped by Barbourouses who would drop deep to help out. Wood spearheaded the attacks, and would often be the only NZ player not defending.
Quick & Organised Japan
Japan started very strongly and was aided by an All White concentration lapse inside the 4th which saw a great chance go begging. Minutes later Reid mistimed a header which ultimately led to Kagawa hitting the post from near the penalty spot. It was a nervy opening 10 minutes for the All Whites but some counter attacks did break out but for only the final ball to be lacking. Japan attacks were varied, nice build up play through Ideguchi before either attacking the flanks with numbers before switching or going direct through the middle. Some of these direct balls that came the All Whites way caused more problems than expected, especially having Reid in the heart of defence. While having a back 5 did not seem to cover enough ground at times. The quick switches from the Japanese saw the NZ wing backs scampering back to position. Japan attacked with pace, often stretching Boxall and Durante wide leaving Reid alone in the middle. If not for lack of more clinical finishing, Japan would have finished the half with a comfortable lead.
Throughout the match there was a stark contrast between the two nations and their ability at deliveries. While Japan had some good chances from their crosses and set pieces the All Whites were completely different. Countless poor corners and crosses would not make it past the first defender and would end up as a counter attack for Japan. Japan’s first goal from the penalty spot came from one of these break a way’s that stemmed from a poor attacking corner into the box. Being a defensive sided team, you need to rely on good set pieces and final ball deliveries so this is definitely an area that is needed to improve come November. One successful cross was the assist from Rojas that Wood buried to make it 1-1, Wood just needs the service.
All Whites Midfield
An interesting midfield trio started for the All Whites in Rojas, McGlinchey and Thomas, all of which could be classified attacking midfielders/wingers. McGlinchey the most defensive of the trio which saw Rojas and Thomas able to break up field with pace and gile as it was these two who would start the counter attacks. A very mobile three which could overload the flanks and create triangles with one of the wing backs and Barbourouses. Surprising call not to field a more tradition defensive midfielder perhaps in the mould of Tzimopoulos, Musa or Tuiloma, but the pace and mobility of the midfield three worked well, being able to match the Japanese midfield for pace as they were never going be a robust physical Nation. It was the All Whites decision to play a more natural holding midfielder, Tzimopoulos
when Japan started to seize control of the game late on, inevitably leading to their winning goal. Could very much see this moving forward against the future South American nation.
Muto vs Ingham
The left flank was very popular for Japan to attack down, whether this be because they were particular strong on that side or were targeting Ingham remains unknown. However, Ingham certainly had a handful all night being run at by Muto and being overloaded with the overlapping Nagatomo. Unfortunately Japans winning goal came from Ingham’s flank when Inui crossed it from the left by-line. Very good experience for the 18-year-old but is he the best option moving into a World Cup playoff? At this time, he is too rash, inadequate positioning and just too inexperienced as he has more international caps than A-League appearances. Nevertheless, the future looks bright for Ingham if he can keep himself fit.
The Reid effect
It was great to have Reid back in the heart of the defence and it seems his presence alone gives everyone a lift. He really is a class above and his leadership, aerial ability and overall talent is priceless, will definitely be needed if the All Whites were to have a chance in November. His ability to help cover both wing backs if they were beaten, step into the midfield and move forward on attacking corners – which he almost set up a goal from, truly highlights his class. Questions moving forward in regard to who will join him in central defence with Tommy Smith still to return from injury and find form while Durante and Boxall are both putting in decent shifts to prove they be in the starting 11.
It was a very good test from a Japan side which was certainly not weak. Yes, they did not have same key players but did have some big names who play in Europe’s top divisions. Great to see the All Whites play a nation that will be similar to the South American side they will play in November and it proved to be a promising test. The final score 2-1 to Japan proved to be bittersweet for the All Whites who were only topped by a soft penalty and knowing they could of held out for a draw.