• Kyodo


Japan coach Zico appeared ready to bring back a familiar formation for Wednesday’s key World Cup qualifier against Bahrain as his squad got together again Sunday following the 2-1 loss to Iran in Tehran.

In Japan’s first full-squad training session since it returned to Japan on Saturday, Zico fielded a 3-5-2 formation in a switch from the 4-4-2 system he used in the loss to the Iranians on Friday.

Zico also put Italian-based midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata in a defensive position in midfield to replace fellow European-based midfielder Shinji Ono, who will miss the Bahrain match in Saitama through suspension.

The moves came after many of the Japanese players did not hide their frustration with the unfamiliar 4-4-2 system and bickered over tactics and confronted each other in training even before the kickoff for the game in Tehran.

“We had more cohesion today and were less puzzled than when we switched to a four-man backline before the Iran game,” Japan captain-defender Tsuneyasu Miyamoto said after Sunday’s training.

Zico hopes Nakata will make key attacking moves from a withdrawn position while Shunsuke Nakamura is utilized mostly in a playmaking role as he looks set to face tight marking from the Bahrain players.

“With a vertical link between him and Nakamura, Nakata may not be so tightly marked and would be able to attack more,” Zico said.

Nakata will be given a second chance Wednesday night to live up to his high expectations after being called up for the national squad for the first time in almost a year for Friday’s game.

Anything less than a win against ever-improving Bahrain would not only hurt Japan’s chances of automatically qualifying for the finals in Germany but also pile more pressure on Zico.

Bahrain leads Group B along with Iran on four points from two matches, one clear of third-placed Japan. North Korea is without a point.

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