Tuesday, 21 December 2010

TENTH IN '10!!: #5. Naoki, North Korea and the Nationals

Just after the close of the 2010 season, an announcement was made that fifty players would be chosen for the Japanese National Team camp leading up to the Asian Cup. No Omiya players were chosen, which shouldn't be a huge surprise considering that Omiya players are never chosen and nobody had really stood out during the course of the year... well, almost nobody. It's true that one Japanese-born Omiya player was selected to represent in the 2010 World Cup, but it was An Yong Hak, who happened to represent North Korea. An had a good tournament for a very bad team. For his troubles, he was the second-most publicized North Korean Japanese player, behind Kawasaki Frontale's talented headcase Chong Tese. Coming back from South Africa, however, An found his place under Jun Suzuki's regime was on the bench and eventually out the door to Kashiwa Reysol; not sure we've ever seen a guy have a good World Cup and lose his job.

The one best hope that Ardija had for National Team recognition was leading scorer and super-sub Naoki Ishihara, who put some remarkable numbers. To be fair, it wasn't the best year for Naoki. He lost his starting job to mercurial Lee Chun Soo and he found his minutes limited to spot appearances, sometimes only playing three or four minutes. In short, it looked like Ishihara was not in the team's plans for the future. Then something funny happened. In week 27, after a controversial non-call nullified a goal, Omiya found itself down in a 2-0 hole to Kawasaki. After pulling back a goal, Suzuki opted to put in Ishihara. One minute later he scored to take a crucial point for Ardija. A week later, Ishihara would be inserted late against Montedio Yamagata with the two squads deadlocked at 1-1. Moments afterwards he would score again.

Ishihara capped his exploits as a super sub in a game against Vissel Kobe, setting up one and then scoring the crucial game-tying goal to virtually ensure Omiya's survival in J1. He ended the year with nine league goals. You would think that these exploits would get the striker some recognition and maybe one of the fifty spots on the National Team. No, instead they picked a mixed bag of players including six members of the recently relegated FC Tokyo, including the vastly overrated Sota Hirayama, who managed to get team and career highs with his seven goals. Two fewer than Naoki. Other players selected include Shinzo Koroki, who had one fewer goal, Takayuki Morimoto, who has had a million chances and failed to capitalize, and Kisho Yano and his whopping three goals this year, in J-League and Russian action.

It must be because Ishihara had a ton of shots, right? Well, no. Ishihara scored nine on 23 shots for an astounding 39% scoring rate, leading the league among guys who scored five or more goals (number two was Yuki Fukaya with 35%). Koroki had more than double the shots of Ishihara with 49, Yano took 32 shots to get his trio of goals, Hirayama took 75 shots for a miserable 9% scoring rate.

Very quietly, Naoki tied the best scoring season for an Omiya player in J1, doing it in a ridiculously efficient manner. Seven of his goals either tied or put Omiya in the lead and five decided games in Omiya's favor. I'm not sure exactly what Naoki or any other Omiya player has to do to get a place in JNT camp... or for that matter what guys like Morimoto, Yano and Hirayama have to do to get asked not to be on the national squad. Oh well, at least Omiya fans will have those magic memories of South Africa, when An took the field for North Korea and stared down Brazil for a good amount of time.



  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP