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Japan must choose wisely

Japan
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 By John Duerden

Why a Premier League relegation scrap is not the best move for Shinji Okazaki

Japan striker Shinji Okazaki has been the main man for Bundesliga club Mainz over the past two seasons.

How long can you be underrated when you are continually described that way? Perhaps Shinji Okazaki knows, even if that phase of the Japanese forward's career is behind him. The Mainz man, who is now one of Bundesliga's best, has been the club's go-to-guy for goals over the past two seasons. Fans in Germany as well as Asia know what Okazaki has to offer, but it looks like it is time for him to move on.

There is talk of Leicester City readying a bid of around $12 million for the striker. There is...

 By John Duerden

Japan, Iran, Qatar keep Asian flag flying after Australia's heroics

A new-look Japan took the field on Friday night in Valid Halilhodzic's first game in charge, yet it was the old guard who came off the bench in Oita to secure a 2-0 win over Tunisia. It was a solid result and a satisfactory performance.

The Bosnian, who led Algeria to the last 16 at the 2014 World Cup, had promised to shake up a team that has looked in need of exactly that over the past few months. There were only two survivors from the 11 that started the last game, the quarterfinal of the 2015...

 By John Duerden

Japan must choose Aguirre's successor wisely to prove a point

Japan sacked Mexican coach Javier Aguirre on Tuesday due to his ongoing involvement in an investigation into match-fixing in Spain.

Back in 2005, Saburo Kawabuchi, then the president of the Japan Football Association (JFA), pledged that there would be a World Cup win by 2050. Given the strides that have been taken in the past 30 years in the country, it is certainly not impossible that the trophy could end up in Tokyo before the 21st century passes the halfway mark. But while a long-term goal is good to have, there are always going to be twists and setbacks to be dealt with along the way.

This is such a time. JFA House sits on...

Aguirre situation a difficult one to watch

The Japan Football Association (JFA) confirm on Tuesday that coach Javier Aguirre has been sacked over match-fixing allegations.

I would like to do it. I was tempted, I controlled myself, sat on my hands, held my breath and closed my eyes. I want stick my neck out for him. I'm tempted to do it. I want to but can't. I can but don't want to. It's a tricky situation.

There are two things at stake here. The most important thing is his credibility as a person, as a man, and as a father. But also a powered reputation earned on the field as a soccer player and coach and a situation where he could even be put in jail.

My perception...

 By John Duerden

Man United, Dortmund and Japan all responsible in the decline of Kagawa

As he sank to his knees on the Sydney turf following his missed penalty for Japan against the United Arab Emirates in the quarterfinal of the 2015 Asian Cup, Shinji Kagawa's face wore a look of confusion and anguish. Japan had dominated but had been eliminated.

For the player, it goes a little deeper than that. The Samurai Blue had won the tournament four years ago but Kagawa left at the semifinal stage thanks to a broken metatarsal. This time, he played until the bitter end but exited even earlier.

Yet...

UAE's Asian Cup quarterfinal upset of Japan one for the ages

You never want to see the defending champions exit a tournament quietly, and for Japan, the side that has won four of the last six Asian Cups, this was a departure fitting their stature.

Were it not for the incredible Iran/Iraq quarterfinal that finished just seconds before this game, this remarkable clash in Sydney would have easily ranked as the tournament's most dramatic match.

How Japan, almost unbackable favourites, contrived to not win this encounter is the stuff of legend.

How Japan contrived to not win their Asian Cup quarterfinal against the UAE in Canberra is the stuff of legend.

Mustering just...