Revamped formation no relief as Japan loses

Reuters
New Japan manager Akira Nishino deployed a new formation but endured a disappointing first match in charge with a 0-2 defeat by Ghana as his side prepared for the World Cup.
Reuters

New Japan manager Akira Nishino deployed a new formation but endured a disappointing first match in charge with a 0-2 defeat by Ghana as his side prepared for the World Cup at a rain-drenched Yokohama Stadium yesterday.

Goals from Ghana captain Thomas Partey and debutante Emmanuel Boateng with a penalty ensured a miserable night for Nishino and means the former Japan midfielder has difficult decisions to make in the next 24 hours before naming his 23-man World Cup squad.

Nishino, who took over from Vahid Halilhodzic in April after the Bosnian had guided Japan to next month’s finals in Russia, switched the formation with three central defenders, two wingbacks and two inside forwards supporting a lone striker.

Despite wingbacks Yuto Nagamoto and Genki Haraguchi posing a threat going forward, there was confusion in defense with the back three often sitting too deep.

Partey scored with a free-kick after eight minutes as Nishino’s new formation failed to function with brief moments of attacking menace tempered by vulnerability in defense. Five minutes after the break Japan’s back three dawdled and hesitant goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima gave away the spot kick that was coolly dispatched by Boateng for Ghana’s second.

Nishino said there were positives from the game but added that his formation did not work against the pacey Ghana attack. “I was surprised with the condition of the Ghana players, who managed to switch from defense to attack quickly. As Ghana’s reaction was so good, I was not able to use the three at the back as I thought,” he said.

Going forward, Keisuke Honda looked the most likely to score in the first half, twice testing goalkeeper Richard Ofori and Shinji Kagawa also looked sharp after coming on at halftime.

However, it was ultimately a poor night for Nishino, who must now decide on his squad today with few positives to reflect on from his sole game in charge.

Japan’s first Group H match is against Colombia on June 19 before it faces Senegal and Poland in Russia.


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