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Japanese efficiency trumps disorganised Danes: World Cup 2010

June 25, 2010

Japan used an orthodox 4-3-3 formation perfectly to beat a Danish side 3-1, and won a deserved spot in the Second Round of this World Cup.

The Japanese team played a very efficient counter-attacking game, using the ball well when they had it, scoring two wonderful free kicks, and an even more wonderful team goal.

In contrast Denmark lacked invention and had little to say for themselves except a good spell of possession at the beginning of the first half, and a few shots.

Hard working Japan

Workrate and organisation were the two key differences between the two sides, something starkly shown in the stats. The Japanese players ran further, faster and kept their shape. Denmark seemed to fall apart after the shock Honda free kick, and in the second half their formation collapsed.

Almost every outfield Japanese player ran over 10 km during the match, whereas the Danes had very few players covering that sort of distance, indeed Nicklas Bendtner covered only 8900 m.


Pressing

The Japanese really compressed the space available, and Denmark didn’t always have that much to work with, whilst the central midfielders created congestion in the centre of the pitch.


Endo was a key man in pressing the Danish midfield, and he ran a mammoth 5 km without the ball, chasing the central midfield whenever they were in possession. In addition Honda is not an out and out striker, more an attacking midfielder, played as front man, and his natural inclination was to get behind the ball too.

The fullbacks Nagatomo and Komano (yellow) played very narrow, forcing Denmark to play wider, not allowing Rommedahl and Tomasson as much freedom to cut inside as they would have liked. Matsui and Okubo (pink) dropped very deep at times creating a 5 man midfield, and protecting the flanks from overloading by the Danish fullbacks.

However the Japanese fullbacks still came forward on the overlap when Japan were in attack. Again and again there are examples of the exceptional Japanese workrate, which meant that they really covered the whole pitch. Here they are in yellow, while the forwards are in pink.

The Danes had more possession and passed well, but to no avail. They could not penetrate the Japanese defence, as the team was well organised.

At the other end of the pitch Japan used the ball well, attacking through their main outlet, Honda, and Matsui, who moved out further to the touchline on the right wing. It was here that the majority of the Japanese attacks occurred (63%).

Japan actually took the lead through a good free kick from Honda, and furthered it through a second free kick from Endo. This put Denmark on the back foot, and made them chase the game which played into the Japanese hands. This allowed them to play on the break and hit the Danish high line.

Danish Tactics

In the first half Denmark played a clear 4-2-3-1 formation which seemed very balanced and served them well in their previous group game, winning 2-1 against Cameroon.

In the second half the Danish full-backs actually played deeper than the first, whilst the two centre backs pushed up, looking to overload the centre of the park. Denmark switched to three up front, but this only further congested the front line, and there was little movement.

The movement was poor from the Danish front three, Bendtner, Tomasson and the substitute Larsen all playing very central, in a small area of the pitch, allowing the Japanese centre backs, and defensive midfielder to pick them up easily.

The very narrow back four of Japan nullified much of the threat in the narrow front three of Denmark in the second half.

The fullbacks were pinned back because of the Japanese wide men, Matsui and Honda both working on the right flank at times. They were also more exposed as Agger played up the field.

The front three of Larsen, Bendtner and Tomasson (pink) were almost helpless, waiting in attack for lofted crosses from the flanks. It really was hit and hope at times for Denmark.

As such Denmark never looked like they were really threatening, and the hard working Japanese scored a wonderful third goal after Jon Dahl Tomasson had seen his penalty saved, but scored on the rebound.

Organisation and Workrate

The Japanese stuck to an organised defensive system, giving the Danish players no room to move, and pressuring up the pitch, constantly running and harrying.

They played with a clear front three of Honda, Matsui and Okubo, who spent a lot of time in the Danish half, and were inventive, whilst using their set piece opportunities very well.

Denmark lacked any invention, and although they changed their shape in order to push for goals this didn’t assist them, in the fact that they seemed to become more disorganised over the duration of the game, the front three becoming isolated and congested in the second half.

This Jose Mourinho-esque 4-3-3 worked for Japan, and follows a growing trend in football; that possession isn’t everything, efficiency and workrate are also  key attributes. The Japanese team had both of these in abundance, as well as technical ability in players like Honda.

A post by James Gillespie

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