NETHERLANDS vs JAPAN, Enschede, 05/09/09
Can Japan take the UFWC title from current champions the Netherlands? On paper it looks like a very tough proposition for the Japanese.
The Dutch are fifth in the UFWC’s all-time rankings, and third in FIFA’s world rankings. They are unbeaten in seven UFWC title matches, and were the first European team to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.
In contrast, Japan have no UFWC ranking, and are ranked 39th in the world by FIFA. But don’t write the Japanese off quite yet. Japan have also qualified for World Cup 2010, and in fact were the very first nation (other than host South Africa) to qualify.
Japan’s last ten games have resulted in six wins, two draws and two losses, the last a 2-1 defeat to Australia in June.
“Blue Samurai” coach Takeshi Okada will be without goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki, who has a broken finger. Vissel Kobe striker Yoshito Okubo is out with lower back pain, and will be replaced by Jubilo Iwata’s Ryoichi Maeda.
Netherlands boss Bert van Marwijk is without the injured Mark van Bommel and Dirk Marcellis, but gives a first call-up to Celtic defender Glenn Loovens. Ryan Babel has been left out of the Dutch squad, replaced by Hamburg’s Eljero Elia.
If the Dutch retain the UFWC title in this game, then the stage is set for another clash against all-time UFWC champions Scotland 4 days later on 9 September. If Japan manage to win the title, then the next UFWC match will be Japan versus Ghana, also on 9 September.