Australia v Japan. Japan impressive and Australia should take note.

On Tuesday Australia will take on Japan in a World Cup qualifying match in Brisbane. The two sides are apparently evenly matched if you believe the official FIFA rankings. Japan are ranked 23rd while Australia are ranked 24th. However if you watched Australia’s performance against Oman and compared it to Japan’s display against Jordan you would have noticed a big difference. Obviously the weather didn’t help Australia but there are some concerns about the Australian team. One of the most common criticism leveled at the Socceroos is the age of the squad and lack of young players coming through to the national team. They did play ok in Oman but lacked mobility in midfield and were forced to shoot from distance in the first half as they struggled to create any chances around the box.

Already Alex Brosque has come out and said that Australia will hold an edge over Japan due to their physical strength. I’m not a fan of this attitude as I’d rather Australia became known for its skill with the ball apart from being seen as a physical side. That kind approach to the game doesn’t get you far in international football as referee’s clamp down on physical challengers harder than they do in the A-League or even in the Premier League (which is what a lot of Australian fans watch and use the refereeing standard there as their template).

Japan have been very impressive in their opening two qualifying matches. Winning 3-0 against Oman and 6-0 against Jordan. Japans football is entering into a sort of golden era as they have a number of players playing in European leagues. Shinji Kagawa has just completed a high-profile transfer to Manchester United. Japan have always been a disciplined and energetic side but have now added technique to their play. Their recent player development is something to be admired and should be used as an example for Australian football.

Japan like to play a 4-3-3 system and Australia should take note. Holger Osieck likes to play a 4-4-2 with Australia but as Jose Mourinho points out a 4-3-3 will always have an advantage over a 4-4-2. Here he talks about his Chelsea side that won the League with Lampard, Thiago and Makelele in midfield.

‘Look, if I have a triangle in midfield – Claude Makelele behind and two others just in front – I will always have an advantage against a pure 4-4-2 where the central midfielders are side by side. That’s because I will always have an extra man. It starts with Makelele, who is between the lines. If nobody comes to him he can see the whole pitch and has time. If he gets closed down it means one of the two other central midfielders is open. If they are closed down and the other team’s wingers come inside to help, it means there is space now for us on the flank, either for our own wingers or for our full-backs. There is nothing a pure 4-4-2 can do to stop things’.

Japans midfield provides a lot of pace and mobility, so it will be interesting to see how Australia counter Japans approach. Will they try to rely on their physical strength or look to sit back and allow Japan to have the ball and attack on the counter. It will be a big test for Australia as they look to make their third successive World Cup.

Japans line up against Jordan that won 6-0.

Starting line up

  • E.Kawashima– age: 29, club: Lierse (Belgium)
  • Y. Nagatomo– age: 25, club: Internazionale (Italy)
  • A.Uchida– age: 24, club: Shalke 04 (Germany)
  • Y.Konno– age: 29, club: Gamba Osaka (Japan) off 72min
  • M.Yoshia– age: 23, club: VVV-Venio (Netherlands) off 44min
  • K.Honda– age: 25, club: CSKA Moscow(Russia) off 57min
  • M.Hasebe– age: 28, club: Wolfsburg (Germany)
  • Y.Endo– age: 32, club: Gamba Osaka (Japan)
  •  S.Okazaki– age: 26, club: Stuttgart (Germany)
  • R.Maeda– age: 30, club: Jubilo Iwata (Japan)
  • S.Kagawa– age: 23, club: Manchester United (England)


  • K.Nakamura– age: 31, club: Kawasaki Frontale (Japan) on 57min
  • M.Inoha– age: 26, club: Vissel Kobe (Japan)
  • Y.Kurihara– age: 28, club: Yokohama F.Marinos (Japan)

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