Japan-Australia: a classic football rivalry

apaway Roar Guru

By apaway, apaway is a Roar Guru

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    Japan and Australia put on another classic the other night at the Saitama Super Arena, in front of 62,000 passionate fans.

    There is no doubt that the Socceroos-Blue Samurai rivalry is now our National Team’s most storied, constantly producing games of great tension, skill, drama and mutual respect.

    What truly began on an unforgettable June evening in Kaiserslautern seven years ago, continued in Saitama last night.

    In fact, the Socceroos 3-1 win at the 2006 World Cup marks the only time that the two teams have been separated by more than one goal since the decision was made to move the Socceroos into the Asian qualifying region.

    It was a breath of fresh air watching last night’s qualifier in which two teams went at each other from the outset, not once resorting to histrionics, time-wasting or cheap fouls.

    The 90 minutes was controlled impeccably by referee Nawaf Shukralla, certainly the most composed referee in the region.

    His job was helped by two sides who went about the business of playing football, and while Japan did a lot of it, the Socceroos were almost faultless defensively, and looked dangerous in transition, something we have not been able to say for quite some time.

    Despite a lack of regular game time, Brett Holman’s performance at Number 10 was fantastic.

    Not just the defence splitting passes that sent Robbie Kruse into space on a few occasions, but his outstanding work rate in getting back to help Mark Bresciano and Mark Milligan plug the gaps the Japanese were looking to exploit with their fleet-of-foot two touch passing.

    Tommy Oar’s selection was a breath of fresh air and he certainly repaid Holger Osieck’s faith with his contribution.

    He seemed almost too eager in the first half, playing balls into the box when he might have been more circumspect.

    But he gave the Socceroos pace down the left and a vibrancy in the front third that had been lacking in more recent fixtures.

    While his goal may have been fortuitous, it was no more than he deserved, even if it did have Japanese keeper Kawashima flapping like a an outback Aussie trying to wave away flies.

    Once again, ageing warriors Lucas Neill and Sase Ognenovski rose to the occasion.

    Without doubt they were troubled by the speed and potency of Japan’s attacking artists Honda and Kagawa, but they were resolute, inevitably well-positioned, and made the tackles and interceptions that mattered.

    They were helped by a midfield that worked hard to compress the space left by Australia’s deeper lying defence, but in the end, the Blue Samurai’s only goal came from the penalty spot.

    A statue of Tim Cahill should be erected at the Olympic Stadium.

    There is no more whole-hearted and spirited character to wear the green and gold. That said, his deployment as a loan striker is very hit and miss, as it is not the position in which he made his reputation both here and in the English Premier League.

    It is the one vexing issue to come out of last night’s game, for Cahill must play; his presence and energy alone demand it. It’s just fitting him into the right spot that is the challenge.

    Looking ahead, I hope the Australian public answer the call and pack out both Docklands and the Olympic Stadium in the coming weeks.

    I also hope the ground preparations ensure a playing surface worthy of the occasion. There was a huge difference in the surface at Saitama compared to the cow paddock twelve months ago for the corresponding game in Brisbane.

    Give the teams a green carpet for two red carpet occasions.

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    The Crowd Says (44)

    • June 6th 2013 @ 6:35am
      Dave said | June 6th 2013 @ 6:35am | ! Report

      I was looking at the field last night during the origin and it was looking pretty torn up. I assume there is nrl being played there the next couple of weekends too. Not to hopeful for the surface in Sydney.

    • June 6th 2013 @ 8:27am
      Brendo said | June 6th 2013 @ 8:27am | ! Report

      Looking forward doing it all again next month ay the EAFF Cup. Lets just hope we can seal our place in the WC by then as well.

    • June 6th 2013 @ 10:13am
      mahonjt said | June 6th 2013 @ 10:13am | ! Report

      I would argue that this is our first, modern rivalry at the national level. Yea the Uruguay games were remarkable and had some feeling, but were predominantly manifestations of the random nature of cross-continental play offs. The NZ rivalry may have something going for it commercially and historically (as well as very rare games against England) – but in football terms we don’t get much from either of these. I think this game is already a belter and will only grow in stature. Korea and China should also garner increased attention in years to come. For some reason Uzbekistan always captures my attention also. ‘The Future is Asia’ indeed.

      • Roar Guru

        June 6th 2013 @ 1:31pm
        Griffo said | June 6th 2013 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

        How much the ‘luck of the draw’ that we haven’t faced Korea more instead of Japan since 2005.

        Japan might not have beaten us in 90 minutes since 2005, but both Korea and China have.

      • June 6th 2013 @ 1:51pm
        dasilva said | June 6th 2013 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

        Our rivalry with Uruguay started back in 1974 when Ray Baartz was karate chop in the neck and nearly died and as a result missed the world cup. He was our best player (to show how good he was in the same game where he nearly died, he scored two goals and won the match for Australia

        The events of the 2001 and 2005 qualifiers added to it.

        I will also add that Iran and Iraq are probably a fairly big rivalry.

        Iran for the 2-2 draw in 1997. It’s a huge shame that we haven’t played Iran since then however we may have a repeat if we finish 3rd in the group.

        Iraq for political reasons as we were involved in the IRaq war and the fractious Asian cup where the Iraq players were dancing like Kangaroos insulting Australia. Although I admit this is a one sided rivalry. The Iraq national team are more determined to beat Australia than the other way around

        • Roar Guru

          June 6th 2013 @ 2:15pm
          Griffo said | June 6th 2013 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

          Yes I think we desperately want to atone for ’97 – but not necessarily in a third place playof just yet. World Cup or qualifiers would do nicely, but whatever to ease the pain of that game.

          I remember the ‘room dance but not sure the Iraqi camp has made much of the matches this time round than during 2007 Asian Cup.

          Keeping politics out of the game is a good thing.

          • June 6th 2013 @ 2:19pm
            dasilva said | June 6th 2013 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

            Yeah I don’t want to finish in third place but if we did

            Imagine the headlines if Harry Kewell (who now has a club) returning to the socceroos to exorcise the demon and knock out Iran. Kewell is the last survivor of the 1997 game.

      • June 6th 2013 @ 2:15pm
        dasilva said | June 6th 2013 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

        THe thing is football rivalry doesn’t have to be in the same confederation

        I mean England has a rivalry with Germany in Europe (although I have a feeling that most nations in europe have a rivalry with Germany) but they also have a rivalry with Argentina.

        THere’s no reason why Uruguay can’t fulfil the cross confederation rivalry for Australia

        • June 6th 2013 @ 2:32pm
          nickoldschool said | June 6th 2013 @ 2:32pm | ! Report

          Agree dasilva, most euro nations would have Germany very high on the rivalry list!

          The Nederlands would be the obvious choice, France of course, and I reckon Belgium, Poland and a few others have the Germans on the hit-list too. Add Spain in the last decade or so.

          Being in Oz, I would have Uruguay as n1 rivals. I personally love Japan too much to have them as n1 rivals.

          • June 6th 2013 @ 3:31pm
            Brian said | June 6th 2013 @ 3:31pm | ! Report

            Historically Australia have definately had rivalries with New Zealand, Israel & Uruguay. I would add Japan to that list

            • June 6th 2013 @ 6:12pm
              nickoldschool said | June 6th 2013 @ 6:12pm | ! Report

              Tx for the info Brian, had no idea there was a rivalry with Israel.

              • June 7th 2013 @ 3:16pm
                Brian said | June 7th 2013 @ 3:16pm | ! Report

                Yeah 15 matches, 8 draws, Australia Won 4, Israel 3.

                Israel beat Australia at the SCG in a playoff to make the 1970 World Cup
                Australia knocked Israel out in the 1986 Qualifiers before losing the final playoff to Scotland
                Australia beat Israel to make the 1988 Seoul Olympics
                Israel knocked Australia out of the 1990 qualifiers before losing the final playoff to Colombia

                There was about 8 friendlies played in the 1970’s.

              • June 7th 2013 @ 4:00pm
                dasilva said | June 7th 2013 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

                Also there was a controversy about Australia playing the German national anthem instead of the Israel national anthem (and we all know the historical connection between Germany and the jews) that causes a diplomatic problems

                Then there was the time when Frank Arok unintentionally caused a controversy by calling his team “mad dogs” but the Israel media misquote it and thought he was calling the Jewish team mad dogs.

                There are also some great stories of the mind games Frank Arok played against the more technically proficient Israeli teams.

                Essentially he played a lot of mind games questioning the physicality of the israeli team and hold a fake public training session in Israel where he got the Socceroos player to be as brutal as possible in training session throwing in X-rated challenge in training in front of the israeli media making it look like SOcceroos were a bunch of thugs (even though the whole training session was essentially a public facade and Les Murray who was there knew it was all an act). The media reported that the Socceroos were going to physically intimidate the israeli players and bully them.

                The Israeli team fall for the trap and brought in the facade and they responded that they weren’t going to be bullied by Australia and promise to fight fire with fire. Essentially Arok succeeded in throwing the Israeli team off their technical passing game that they were legitimately afraid of and the match turned into Israel trying to out-intimidate the Australian team, Australia ended up defeating Israel

                Essentially Arok exploited “male pride” by questioning the manhood of the Israeli team and they falled for it

                I once suggested that Australia should do regular friendly matches with Israel and call it the “Mad Dog Cup”

    • Roar Guru

      June 6th 2013 @ 11:50am
      Fussball ist unser leben said | June 6th 2013 @ 11:50am | ! Report

      Agree. This is a true football rivalry that has organically developed through real on-field football experiences.

      Can’t wait for the next installment:
      JPN v AUS (EAFF East Asian Cup)
      Thursday, 25 July 2013
      Kick off: 2100 (AEST)
      Hwaseong Stadium, Korea Republic

      • June 6th 2013 @ 11:59am
        AGO74 said | June 6th 2013 @ 11:59am | ! Report

        I’d say Japan is our modern football rivalry – as much through continually being drawn against each other – but Korea is our oldest all the way back to the 60’s/70’s.

        Those familiar with Johnny Warren’s biography would be familiar with the story below, but within this amazing story is another great example of our long rivalry with Korea:


        • June 6th 2013 @ 2:09pm
          dasilva said | June 6th 2013 @ 2:09pm | ! Report

          Let’s not forget that Australia did to South Korea what Iran did to us in the 1974 world cup qualifiers

          We were 2-0 down and Australia came back to draw 2-2 to force a replay in neutral territory (there was no away goals back then and if they were, Australia would have qualified)

      • June 6th 2013 @ 12:34pm
        Jukes said | June 6th 2013 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

        “Agree. This is a true football rivalry that has organically developed through real on-field football experiences. ”

        This rivalry plus the one we have with Uruguay. If worse comes to worse and we hit 3rd spot, you guessed it. Thats who we will play. We just cant seem to shake these guys.

        • June 6th 2013 @ 2:10pm
          dasilva said | June 6th 2013 @ 2:10pm | ! Report

          3rd place playoff with Iran followed by a playoff with Uruguay and we have a big rivalry with both of these nations

          I have to say, my love for drama and theatre in the sporting context ALMOST makes me wish we finish 3rd .

          • June 6th 2013 @ 4:50pm
            AGO74 said | June 6th 2013 @ 4:50pm | ! Report

            I don’t think I could live with the tension. Direct qualification please!

        • Roar Guru

          June 7th 2013 @ 1:10am
          apaway said | June 7th 2013 @ 1:10am | ! Report


          I’m not sure my heart could take that! Let’s just win the next two, what do you reckon?

          • June 8th 2013 @ 10:07am
            Jukes said | June 8th 2013 @ 10:07am | ! Report

            Totally agree.

    • June 6th 2013 @ 12:09pm
      Mmickey said | June 6th 2013 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

      As someone who only really watches soccer when the socceroos are playing, and who used to live in Japan and speaks the language, I have to say I really enjoyed this match.

      However, I must say I find the penalty in the box thing seriously frustrating… to me the socceroos deserved to win that game, and the “offence” didn’t warrant the punishment it received.

      I’m sure the regular lovers of the sport will call for my hanging for even suggesting this, but would it not be unreasonable to suggest that those penalty kicks should be worth less than a goal scored in general play? To me it seems pretty obvious that the latter are significantly harder to score, and should be worth more.

      Why can’t goals scored in general play be worth 2 points, and goals from penalties be worth 1?

      As an aside, my main game is rugby union, so I’m coming at this from the way our game approaches it in making a penalty worth slightly less than a converted try (but slightly more than an unconverted on).

      • June 6th 2013 @ 1:09pm
        Minister for Information for the Democratic People's Republic of Football said | June 6th 2013 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

        I respect your suggestion as an “outsider looking in” and there is always something football can improve on Mmickey but our game is about goals and not points, always has been, always will be.
        What goes around comes around in football. Sometimes you end up with the rough end of the pineapple when it comes to refereeing decisions, sometimes it’s the other way around. That being said however, the penalty decision was 100% correct in this case.

      • June 12th 2013 @ 12:53am
        Sky Blue said | June 12th 2013 @ 12:53am | ! Report

        I couldn’t see that working, the point of penalties is to get the players to sharpen up in the box and be extra careful.
        If penalties are devalued I can see tackles flying in thick and fast in the box, makes my ankles cringe just thinking about it.

    • June 6th 2013 @ 12:12pm
      Bondy said | June 6th 2013 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

      I agree Apaway the defensive structure was solid I didn’t think they’d get a goal after 70 mns of play, it was nice to see Oar work the left flank with some vigour and purpose that’s what we need and have been crying out for, our counter attack at times looked disjointed and the final ball going missing ( I hope there simulating real game time in training ,imperative).

      The rendezvous in Kaiserslautern 3-1 it was 1-0 to Japan after 73 mins and then Hiddink threw everything at them and bingo ,I wish the local media could get behind the rivalry between the two countries ,imagine if that was AFL what sought of media coverage would it receive here .

      A point will kill us in Melbourne next week and Jordan know it, will be interesting.

      • June 6th 2013 @ 12:31pm
        Mmickey said | June 6th 2013 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

        I think the media would normally, but there is so much sport on right now with Origin, the beginning of the one in 12 year British and Irish Lions tour and then all the general club football across league, union and Aus rules.

      • Roar Guru

        June 6th 2013 @ 12:41pm
        Fussball ist unser leben said | June 6th 2013 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

        “I wish the local media could get behind the rivalry between the two countries ,imagine if that was AFL what sought of media coverage would it receive here.”

        According to Twitter (I don’t buy the newspaper) the Herald Sun has featured the National Team on the front page today & yesterday. The Guardian (Australia).

        Thursday, 6 June 2013 … the day after Origin & day before Queen’s Birthday AFL round … this is the front page of Herald Sun:

      • June 6th 2013 @ 12:50pm
        Australian Rules said | June 6th 2013 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

        Seriously Bondy?

        The Socceroos have been on the front and back pages of the biggest selling paper in the country…and its Origin time and the Lions have just arrived. What do you want?

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