Friday Kickaround: Japan & Iran exit the Asia Cup + transfer news

I did not see this coming: smoke still smoldering from last night’s quarterfinals down under -Iraq downed rival Iran on penalties (3-3 / PK 6-7) and an even more seismic shocker – Japan, defending Asia Cup champs, who many regarded as tournament favorites, went down in defeat despite finding a late game equalizer to take the game into OT.  But extra time could not decide things. UAE and the Blue Samurai went to penalty kicks. Honda and Kagawa both missed in the shootout and UAE came out ahead to triumph 4-5 in PKs.  Aguirre kept the same lineup for the 4th consecutive game. UAE took the lead early in the 7th minute (Mabkhout scoring the goal), this after Inui’s header in the 2nd minute went just wide of goal.  It took Japan all the way to the 83rd to equalize, Shibasaki taking a Honda pass to score and take the game into extra time.  Extra time came and went and into Penalty kicks to decide things. Honda went first for Japan and missed -eventually evened out when Khamis Esmaeel’s shot went high and over.  When Kagawa’s shot hit the post, Ismail Ahmed nailed his shot to send UAE to their first semifinal appearance since 1996 – coincidentally the last time Japan crashed out of the Asia Cup at the quarterfinal level.  The UAE advances to face hosts Australia in the semis, buoyant after their own 2-0 quarterfinal win over surprising upstarts China yesterday (Tim Cahill with the brace – including a nifty overhead goal). That game, by the way, drew an estimated 70 million + audience in China, this according to their network sources.

Update: it didn’t occur to me initially, but it may seem even more likely now that Japan crashed out of the tournament, head coach Javier Aguirre may be on his way out. There was some speculation recently that no matter the result, the JFA were preparing themselves to let Aguirre go over match fixing allegations that surfaced prior to the Asia Cup opening matches.  Indications are the JFA will not immediately ax Aguirre, but (borrowing a phase from Takeuchi on twitter) his days are numbered.

Canberra Stadium meanwhile was witness to a 1-1 draw between historical rivals Iraq and Iran, Iran taking the lead in the first half but went a man down after Pooladi tangled with Iraqi keeper Hassan and received his 2nd yellow card. Ahmed Yasin’s goal kept Iraq in the game in the 56th minute and forced the game into extra time. Extra time: Iraq took the lead twice, only for Iran to find their equalizer each time – the last was within 2 minutes from the end of extra time -a PK awarded and successfully converted by Iran. At the end of extra time deadlocked at 3-3, Iraq pulled out ahead 6-7 to secure their date with Korea next Monday.

Looking ahead to next week:

Asia Cup Semifinals

Korea v Iraq Monday Jan 26 – 4am US EST / 6pm Korea Time / 8pm Sydney 

Australia v UAE Tuesday Jan 27 -4am US EST / 6pm Korea Time / 8pm Newcastle


Should Korea advance, the title match is set for January 31st in Sydney. 3rd/4th place will be held on Jan 30th in Newcastle.

Here’s the video highlights from Iran v Iraq (we’ll have the Japan v UAE as soon as the AFC can get it out)

And here’s the Japan v UAE highlight:

In transfer news: it’s looking very imminent, Bolton has agreed on principal to a transfer deal for Lee Chung-Yong to go to Crystal Palace, this according to the Guardian.  Neil Lennon announced yesterday that Bolton’s medical team’s evaluation on Lee’s tibia hairline fracture (incurred at the Asia Cup vs Oman) is relatively minor – expects him back to match fitness in a week or two. Crystal Palace is also reportedly trying to seal a deal to get Swansea striker Gomis. Crystal Palace recently hired Alan Pardew as their new manager, currently sit 13th in the Premier League table and are facing Southampton in the 4th round of the FA Cup.

Extra Time item [updated]: even though Japan crashed out of the Asia Cup, there’s no doubt they’ve executed a radical transformation of their football culture in a short number of years to become one of the beasts of Asian football.  It wasn’t overnight and according to the Daily Mail, one reason Japan were able to cultivate new generations of technically sound footballers may point to the work of an American ex-pat coach.  Tom Byers first arrived in 1988 and stayed ever since, proselytizing his brand of elevating technical skills for young Japanese kids. He has claimed Kagawa, a former pupil of his, as a testament to how he helped transform their football training culture. His secret: disguise the skills training – not in boring mundane drills, but as super fun activities.  That may not sound revolutionary, but for an Asian culture steeped in uber-seriousness and OCD-esque adherence to code, let’s call it revolutionary-lite. The article goes on to note that the Chinese government is interested in his program with discussions underway to integrate it as part of their national curriculum.  Jesus, Buddha and Mary, will we witness the rise of super technical and adept Chinese football in our lifetime?  If his program succeeds, the answer might be yes.

According to the Tavern’s own Takeuchi, Byers’ ‘single-handed’ role transforming Japanese youth football is overhyped. Though Kagawa has been cited by Byers as his pupil, his real growth may have more to do with his years of academy training at Cerezo Osaka.  Judging by the number of times Byers has been on TV pushing his program, there’s definitely an element of self propagandizing that’s at play.  Hype man? Probably. Nevertheless, for the very young (age 3-7) Japanese kids he’s worked with, Byers program might still be positive step in the right direction. Simply due to it’s implementing Coerver (Dutch derived) footwork techniques as foundational skills, it’s hard to go wrong with that.

Turning attention to Korean youth football, the question on my mind regarding the grassroots level, are Korean kids intrinsically motivated to train, learn and play football?

And a follow up question, are there Coerver-based or similar type youth training programs or clinics in Korea?  If so, are they widely available or even implemented as part of school curriculum?



About Roy Ghim 454 Articles
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  1. Meh….don’t give the JNT too much credit. Most of them are overrated and couldn’t touch Cha Bum Kun or Park Ji Sung in terms of class.

    • Hey i always love to have input here in the blog, just a friendly reminder to ‘keep it classy’ to borrow a turn of phrase. I had to edit just a tad to keep things up to speed with our civil policies. Hope you can hang with the Tavern and drop by again in the future.

      • let me guess… the ‘JNT’ was the editing, right? anyway, i think cha bum kun is under-utilized for football development in korea.

      • I was working on an article but ultimately scrapped it.. but anyways

        1. Forget Tom Byer’s influence in Japan. He played a small part (I hate how Kagawa is constantly mentioned considering he is a product of Cerezo Osaka youth) with many other foreign players/coaches who inhabited in Japan.

        2. Compared to Japanese youth teams, Korea has done well over the years in international youth tournaments. To me, it suggest Korea doesn’t need a “revamp” or development in grassroot/youth is lacking. If anything, Korea should focus on strengthening the K-league & overall football pyramid/structure. It’s a fcking mess, with controversies from clubs thinking about shutting down to poor environment for youth players to make their next step as pros. The young players being developed in Korea need places to play, mature, and further their education…. atm, I simply do not feel K-league provides it.

        • i agree with you, takeuchi. it’s not so much the youth development as individuals, it’s more the lack of cohesive system it seems to me. it’s like no one is on the same page together, and K-League is not even on the same page with itself.

        • Byer is overhyped you say? I’ll edit the post accordingly – You’ve convinced me …seems likely Cerezo Osaka youth program would have more influence on Kagawa’s growth.

          With your 2nd point – I absolutely agree with you on the K-League being a hot hot mess -it needs some kind of overhaul on a number of levels. Structure, building support base, poor environment for youth, etc etc..

          On the grassroots observation – good point, Korean youth have done fairly well in int’l tournaments. That does say something is good happening there on the younger youth level. Still, I wonder… if there’s a critical mass of Korean kids that’s psyched and passionate about playing football – to such a degree that there’s spontaneous pickup games everywhere in the country? When I visited Ghana nearly a decade ago, there were kids playing football across the countryside, with makeshift goals amidst imperfect pitches. Didn’t matter, most kids were into it, playing with pure abandon. I’ve never been to Brazil, but the Brazil that I read about is one where it’s played everywhere -as if it is the religion of the country. Sure not everyone is into it, but there’s a critical mass that is and one can rightly expect a percentage of that to elevate to world class-ness.

          Korea’s not there obviously – but I don’t give up on the notion that they can improve to be regarded as a top 10 footballing nation someday. But there’s a hella lot to be done for that to happen.

    • They weren’t too overrated when they kicked our asses in the last two matches. AND… don’t forget… Park Ji Sung’s swansong was our defeat to the JNT in the 2011 Asian Cup.
      That’s what I’m saying… we gotta beat them if we want to talk sh*t. Meanwhile, gotta give respect where its due..
      To echo Daniel’s point… one thing that’s lacking in Korea is football development, especially amongst youngsters. That’s one reason the JNT has grown, and I really think the KNT has to swallow its pride and take a long hard look at Japan’s programs if they themselves want to progress (not just in Asia, but on the global stage).

      • ANND Takeuchi proves me wrong 🙂 Look, I’m not saying I know the ins and outs of youth football programs in Korea. But, like Roy, after 2002 I expected kids in Korea to be playing pickup games all over the place. I was shocked to find that in Korea, the mentality is “go to school, or try to play football and probably fail and be a loser for the rest of your life.” Looking throughout South America and Africa, kids are always playing pickup games even in shoddy conditions. I’d wager that even kids in the U.S. play more soccer than kids in Korea. Although we’ve got a good team, I bet the size of the football playing youth population in Korea is super small compared to other (even Asian) countries.

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