Japan and USA are set to meet in the final of the FIFA world Cup 2011, on Sunday, July 17. Both teams came through their semi-final matches against Sweden and France respectively, with the identical score-line of 3-1. In this article, I am going to analyse who are the best eleven players Japan should use in the final against USA.
The following 21 players comprise the Japanese team at the world cup: Nozomi Yamago, Yukari Kinga, Azusa Iwashimizu, Saki Kumagai, Kyoko Yano, Mizuho Sakaguchi, Kozue Ando, Aya Miyama, Nahomi Kawasumi, Homare Sawa, Shinobu Ohno, Miho Fukumoto, Rumi Utsugi, Megumi Kamionobe, Aya Sameshima, Asuna Tanaka, Yuki Nagasato, Karina Maruyama, Megumi Takase, Mana Iwabuchi, Ayumi Kaihori.
The team has three goalkeepers in Yamago, Fukumato and Kaihori, seven defenders in Kinga, Iwashimizu, Kumagai, Yano, Kamionobe, Sameshima and Tanaka, five midfielders in Sakaguchi, Miyama, Kawasumi, Sawa and Utsugi, and six forwards, in Ando, Ohno, Nagasato, Maruyama, Takase and Iwabuchi.
The oldest, though not the most-capped, player of the squad is goalkeeper Yamago, 36, who has yet to play a match at this world cup. The only other player above 30 is skipper Sawa, who at 32 is also the team’s most experienced player, with 170 caps. The more impressive and in fact truly astounding statistic is that Sawa has scored 78 goals in those 170 appearances. Next to Sawa, the most experienced international in the Japan squad is striker Nagasato, who at the relatively young age of 24 has already played in 67 matches for her country.
This is in fact a young team, with all other players under the age of 30. the bulk of the players play club football for Japanese clubs, mainly INAC Kobe Leonessa. Only four play for clubs outside Japan. Ando and Nagasato play for German clubs FCR 2001 Duisburg and 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam, while Sameshima plays for USA’s club team Boston Breakers, and Utsugi represents Montpellier HSC of France.
Beginning with the match against New Zealand, through to the quarter-finals against Germany, Japan played with the same eleven players, as follows: Kaihori, Kinga, Iwashimizu, Kumagai, Sameshima, Sakguchi, Miyama, Sawa, Ando, Ohno and Nagasato.In other words, the Japanese coach went with a goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards.
But against Sweden, in a change of tactics, coach Nori Sasaki dropped his most experienced striker Nagasato and her place was taken by Kawasumi. The move paid rich dividends as midfielder Kawasumi used as a striker on the night scored a brace of goals that went a long way in Japan’s brilliant victory over Sweden, thereby giving them a place in the final.
There’s a saying in English, which goes, “If it ain’t, broke, don’t fix it.” Going by that principle, in the final, I would prefer to play the same Japan squad that acquitted themselves so well against Sweden. Which means, no Nagasato in the final. With due respect to Nagasato who has been outstanding for Japan, in the past, with 32 goals, in 67 matches, I would prefer the woman in form, Kawasumi, with Nagasato on the bench, ready for action any time coach Sasaki wants her.