Giant Killing 11 – The Wall
Well, this newbie fan officially has World Cup fever — Giant Killing encouraged me to give the World Cup a try, and it hasn’t been disappointing so far, even though the quality of play has not been the best early on. (Though as I am writing this, Spain and Switzerland just finished the game of the Cup so far; absolutely fantastic match, with a ton of close goals.) Being an American, I am rooting for the U.S., even though they realistically have a miniscule shot at taking the Cup, to say the least. But, hey, doesn’t mean I can’t root for ‘em, right?
Anyway, watching this episode was kind of funny for me because so many teams in the World Cup so far have taken an ETU-esque approach in concentrating on protecting the goal more so than attacking the opposition. (Which is part of the reason this Spain/Switzerland match was been so entertaining; Spain was vicious on the attack since going down 1-0 to the Swiss. It’s refreshing to see a team, you know, actively trying to score. :p) It’s fun to finally see ETU play with such an assured, confident air about them, though. They make a few mistakes (Murakoshi spends the first half getting used to Zelberto’s rhythm, etc.), but they recover pretty well, with even Tsubaki making some strong contributions with his reckless energy.
That sort of concentration is the main thing ETU lacked in the games before this. Their strategies and teamwork weren’t totally game-tested before the season, and they had increased pressure on them after that exhibition game tie, so the whole team came off as jumpy and pressing. But now ETU has gelled to the point where it can carry through Tatsumi’s game plans with confidence; the players believe that good things will happen if they stick to their guns, so they’re actually putting their full concentration into defense. Nagoya’s players — particularly the Brazilian trio — are skilled enough to be able to break through ETU’s defense from time to time, but the difference now is that the ETU players have been able to keep their composure and come through at the right times.
Gotta say that it is funny seeing Kuroda with a full head of hair here! I would bet anything that he first shaved his head right after this match. Just seems like the kind of thing he would do; after suffering such an embarrassment at the hands of the opposition, he completely changes his identity and obsesses over becoming a different type of player, one who could successfully stop the Domingos of the football world.
Speaking of, Emperor J makes a good point in his post about how Kuroda calling Itagaki’s style of play an inferior copy of Domingo’s highlights the problems with the Nagoya squad. Nagoya has skilled foreigners but no real identity of its own; often times the Brazilians are doing their own thing, because they know each other and their style of play. Itagaki is a skilled player, but he’s not completely in sync with the Brazilians, and he’s reduced to copying a style of play without entirely understanding what makes it work.
I didn’t think about it before I read the comments for the above post, but Fuwa does have an Isiah Thomas (former general manager and coach of the NBA’s New York Knicks) way of running his team. Thomas was infamous for bringing in name players who had flashy games but were never able to fit into the teams they were on. He ran the Knicks like he was in a NBA fantasy league, with no consideration of how all those disparate elements he brought in would work as a team. (Which is ironic considering Thomas was a total team-oriented guy during his playing career; he would live and die for the Detroit Pistons and sacrifice anything for victory.)
Fuwa isn’t quite that bad . . . but that’s kind of the approach he is taking, isn’t it? Now that he has the money, he brings in the flashiest, highest-priced players possible and assumes their pure skill alone will be enough to consistently ensure victory. Skill goes a long, long way in competitive team sports, but it’s not the only consideration that should be made. A little thing like moving Itagaki to a side of the pitch he does not normally play is enough to throw things off for the team.
This seems to be the match where ETU will finally grasp victory, and I’d wager that Tsubaki will finally make his mark on the team as well, either by scoring a goal himself or contributing to a goal in a significant way. He’s got that field vision going on; everything is unfolding in slow motion. He’s in the zone. Something is going to happen.