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Say It Loud

The Art of Soccer - Japanese Style

Stryker Bodei~ ®
2011-07-14 12:29:22

Yesterday, the Japanese national womens soccer team, the Nandeshima (beautiful flowers), put up a soccer clinic for all soccer coaches and enthusiasts of the game the world over. In their jaunty 3-1 defeat of the Swedes, they displayed those unique aspects of the game that is more cerebral, gutsy and instinctive.

I suggest a Nobel Prize for their coach, Hiroshi Ohawa who has taken the Nandeshima to a higher level of the game. The skill, style and moves of the Japanese team was on the same level as that of the Spanish team that won last year’s world cup.

The conventional wisdom among most of the US and European teams is that one can only advance the ball by running. And in running with the ball while one’s gaze is fixed to ground, the receiver of the pass is should also be running in the same direction as the possessor of the ball. Thus at any one time, the rest of the forwards are all running. This has been the bane of many teams when they encounter others with superior strategies.

The best way to advance the ball is by positioning. The receiver of the ball should ALWAYS be in an open space to receive a pass. When the pass is received, there are about three teammates within 6ft radius of the ball who are also open and ready to receive any pass. There has to be no hesitation on the pass receiver to offer a subsequent pass to the open teammate within the 6-foot radius. In my youthful playing days, we termed such passing game whereby pass receivers always abound and are in the open position as “Ponko” (Horse). Such tactics was so termed because the opponent will be running around like a horse, seeking the ball with no avail. The exception is when one is near the 18 with few defenders to beat.

In the second half of the France versus US game, the French teamn deftly advanced the ball by the Ponko method. The US team looked useless. Possessive football requires such personal and technical skill it cannot be taught. I tried teaching it unsuccessfully to youngster here in the US who failed miserably.

Soccer involves the art of deception and the Japanese team delightful moves are full of dummys, fake stop and no-look-one-time passes. A US commentator remarked that the Nandeshima do not have a striker. For their style of play, anyone can score and no striker is needed. They conserve so much energy by their “Ponkoh” game it offers them the opportunity to transition to defense.

The Nandeshima’s only weakness is their small stature. Aerial balls and set pieces as corner kicks will bite them hard. However, their defense is so intelligent and always receive help from the midfield. Aya Miyake and their left full back remind me Hassacas defender in 1968, nicknamed Ojukwu. I just grin from ear-to-ear watching them.

The US women will have their hands full in the finals on Sunday. This is a well-drilled Japanese team. What they lack in size and brawn is made up by their technical skill, old fashion ball tackling (they’re always defending in numbers) and style. I predict a penalty award for the Japanese whose skillful forwards will be constantly felled in the box. Sorry, Alexa Morgan. Sorry cutie. This time you’re gonna face a better team and luck will not be a factor. For a tsunami-ravaged nation, winning the cup will bring smiles.

--------Kai do you love me? Coach Fiifii Vandyck – “Edina Dan Vadis”------------
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