HANOI — The Asian Cup quarterfinal between Australia and Japan may well come down to penalties — which would bring ‘keepers Mark Schwarzer and Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi into the spotlight.
Aussie custodian Schwarzer had kind things to say about Japan’s undisputed No. 1 ahead of Saturday’s match.
Schwarzer, who has had a successful career with Middlesbrough in the Premier League, said Kawaguchi’s inability to make an impact at Portsmouth in his short spell there doesn’t make him a bad ‘keeper.
“I think he is a very good goalkeeper. At the World Cup last year he proved for a large part of the game to be the difference with the saves he made. Obviously he is very highly thought of in Japan and Asia,” Schwarzer said of Japan’s captain.
“I think the cultural change, the level of football, the speed of the game in England was the major factor at Portsmouth. It’s a very difficult league to adjust to if you are coming from something totally different culturally, with the weather and everything. England is not the nicest of places to be when it’s raining, as it does most of the time. It can be very difficult.
“You see players coming from continental Europe who struggle to adapt to the conditions and culture especially.
“There is no shame in not succeeding and it doesn’t mean you are not a good player,” said Schwarzer.
By the way, Kawaguchi faced a number of penalties at the end of training on Friday evening. He didn’t save one.
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Meanwhile, Australia’s big-boned striker Mark Viduka is a big fan of big man Ivica Osim.
“I have always admired him as a coach, from when he coached the Yugoslavian national team for the World Cup in Italy (in 1990),” said Viduka. “I have always known of him and a few times when I was playing in Croatia we played against Sturm Graz where he was. We had some friendly matches against him and I never really met him until I played in a testimonial game for (ex-AC Milan midfielder) Zvonimir Boban and he was the coach of the team I was playing for. I found him to be a very approachable person and he left a good impression on me.”
Viduka spent three years at Croatia Zagreb in the 1990s during the time Osim coached Austrians Sturm Graz, before moving on to a successful career in Britain with Celtic, Leeds United and Middlesbrough.
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I spoke to a reporter who remembered a chat in the media mixed zone with Lucas Neil after Australia’s 3-1 come-from-behind win over Japan in their World Cup game last year. Another journalist asked Neil what was said when the defender went over to coach Guus Hiddink after substitute Tim Cahill had equalized.
Neil replied: “I went over to Hiddink and asked him what we should do. Settle for 1-1 or try to win it? Hiddink thought for a moment and then said, ‘F*** it, let’s go for it.’ “
So much for Hiddink the master tactician!
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Did you know? Socceroos coach Graham Arnold was seen knocking back a few cold ones in that high-class Hanoi hot spot “Nutz” with some of his staff on Wednesday evening, the day after the Aussies arrived at the Sheraton hotel where the club is located.
Like I said before, Nutz is the place to be in Hanoi. Actually, it’s the only place to be since all the other nightclubs were shut down.
It’ll probably be a race to the bar for the Aussies if they lose on Saturday.
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Stadiums around the world are named after famous players, coaches and presidents.
There’s the Fritz Walter Stadion in Kaiserslautern — scene of the Australia-Japan match last year.
Walter was a popular German international footballer in the 1930s and ’40s.
Then there is the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza. Meazza, who supposedly slept in a brothel the night before big games, played for Inter Milan throughout the ’30s before moving to cross-town rival AC, and the two clubs share the ground also known as the San Siro.
One of the most famous stadiums is the Santiago Bernabeu, home of Real Madrid. Bernabeu was a long-time club president of the famous club.
And how about the scheduled scene of the Asian Cup final in Jakarta on July 29? The Gelora Bung Karno Stadium — named after George Graham.
No, seriously, it’s named after Indonesia’s first president Sukarno.
“Bung” was supposedly an affectionate term to address people in Indonesia around the time the president ruled and not something handed over in a brown paper bag at motorway service stations to smooth player transfers.
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And finally: Mully’s Missives’ match prediction: Australia 2, Japan 1 (after extra time).
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