Archive for the ‘Hiroki Mizumoto’ Category

USA And Japan Set To Face Off

August 7, 2008


Today the USA and Japan men’s soccer teams will open up their Olympic campaign in a tough group which includes Nigeria and the Netherlands. In contrast to the USA which features three top over-23 players led by striker Brian McBride, Japan is essentially bringing its U-23 team with no overage players.

While the USA has looked solid defensively in friendly matches, it still has yet to find its shooting boots and coach Piotr Novak hopes they find them today. Novak opined that “As a coach you’re always concerned about the team not creating chances, but during the qualifiers they did create a lot of chances. We had the opportunities to score goals, and we did that in the game that mattered the most. Against Canada in the semifinal we scored three goals and as far as I know it doesn’t really matter how many goals you score if you win. In today’s football it’s not possible to run up a score because the games are so tight.”

Their Japanese opponents have not fared much better of late and are now under pressure from their new federation president, Motoaki Inukai, who has criticized the team for its attitude as a cause of its poor form. Novak seems to have a different take: “I think the strength of the Japanese team is their whole team, the way they work together and understand each other very well. We watched them in the Toulon Tournament that we played in and their ‘team’ is their biggest strength. They collectively are very strong and never give up. They know the game and the discipline it takes and at any given time they can hurt you.”

The Japanese player to watch out for is Hiroki Mizumoto, a pesky 6-foot defender who is strong in the air and never seems to tire. In the penalty area, expect him to stick to McBride like glue.

Given the strength of group B, both Japan and the USA need to collect all three points to have any hope of advancing in the tournament for a shot at a medal. Despite the heat (expected to be in the 80s) expect a full-tilt contest with a frenetic start.

My prediction: USA 2 : Japan 1.

Not near a TV? Catch the game live here.