Experimental Japan also building for future

You have to admire the 'cojones' of Javier Aguirre. The Mexican appointed in July to instill some fire, brimstone and bloody-mindedness into the Japan national team, was not fazed at all by the prospect of a friendly with Brazil on October 14.

Already having lost Shinji Kagawa to concussion a few days previously, he relegated in-form Milan man Keisuke Honda to the bench and went all experimental. In total, seven J.Leaguers, many just starting what they hope will be international careers, were in the eleven.

Perhaps it backfired as the Asian champion was second best at the impressive Singapore Sports Hub and lost 4-0. In the highest-profile of his four games so far since taking the job in August, the former Atletico Madrid boss and his players, along with 52,000 fans at the new arena, could only stand and admire Neymar who got all four and could have had more. In the press box, local journalists also enjoyed the show while those from overseas struggled for internet access in $1 billion state-of-the-art stadium.

The fact that Neymar was so good actually helped, meaning that the headlines belonged to him and him alone. Words that could have been lamenting a disappointing Samurai Blue performance were otherwise employed.

After the game Aguirre said the right things. He told reporters that the game was an exercise to find the right players to take to the Asian Cup in January. It could be that this defeat will turn out to be a significant moment in the budding international careers of some of these players but that remains to be seen.

Socceroo scouts will have seen an uncertain performance from the Samurai Blue with little bite and not too much fight. The playing surface may have been poor and the standard of opposition anything but, yet the defence gave Brazil too much ball and space. The midfield belonged to the South Americans while and while Japan had its moments in attack, as the game progressed it looked as if the best chance of a goal was a set piece. That is not something often said about the Samurai Blue.

Reporters before and after the game questioned the team's commitment and passion and while this was fiercely denied by the boss, there was certainly a lack of intensity in Singapore.

That should not be the case against Australia, a welcome rival in Asia, in November and after recent results, the Osaka clash is becoming a bigger deal for both teams. 

Losing to the 'pizza-eaters' as former centre-back Yuji Nakazawa memorably and cryptically labelled the Socceroos, on home soil would go down very badly.

There are some young players who could be unfamiliar for Socceroos fans next month but may not be by the time the Asian Cup finishes. FC Tokyo centre-back Masoto Morishige has yet to truly settle on the international stage though newer boy Tsukasa Shiotani looks to have a brighter future. Likened to a young Beckenbauer due to his composed countenance, the Hiroshima man had a decent game against Brazil, even if there were a couple of mistakes.

There wasn't much protection from a new-look midfield.Yasuhito Endo is no longer around and neither is the sense of control he often provided and Makoto Hasebe was not summoned after missing September's games through injury. In their absence, none really staked a claim for a starting spot with Taishi Taguchi enduring something of a personal nightmare in terms of giving the ball away.

Further forward, there was some cause for optimism. Yu Kobayashi had some promising moments and went very close with what would have been a spectacular volley to open the scoring. Yoshinori Muto was quiet against Brazil but, thanks partly to his confidence and composure near goal, has done enough in previous games to feature against Australia. Gaku Shibasaki shows plenty of promise in midfield.

Aguirre said that he was looking to learn about new players in a tough environment and he certainly should have done that. Yet all coaches know that while building for the future is all well and good, results are always a factor. One win from four, that coming courtesy of a Jamaican own goal, is not a cause of panic but the Mexican could do with a boost.

And that is why a win over Australia in November has become a little more important.