2012 Olympics Preview: Japan - Morocco
Victory for the Asian side at St James' Park will book its place in the final eight, while Pim Verbeek's north African side knows that it can't afford to lose
By Alex Richards
Noussair, El Kaddouri, El Kaoutari, Jebbour
Labyad, Barrada, Bidaoui
Tokunaga, Hiroki Sakai, Yoshida, Suzuki
Ogihara, Higashi, Yamaguchi
Otsu, Nagai, Kiyotake
Morocco began its campaign with a hard-fought 2-2 draw against Honduras and will have to make a change at the heart of the defense after Zakarya Bergdich's red card in thg opener; Montpellier's Abdelhamid El Kaoutari his likely replacement.
That apart, Pim Verbeek is likely to stick with the same side, meaning highly rated Zakaria Labyad and Soufian Bidaoui on the flanks, with playmaker Abdelaziz Barrada behind former PSV Eindhoven striker Nordin Amrabat.
Japan started with a terrific 1-0 win over the pre-tournament favorite Spain, with a wonderful counterattacking display when it could (and perhaps should) have won by more.
As such, the Hoffenheim attacking midfielder Takashi Usami is likely to have to be content with a place on the bench again, unless goalscorer Yuki Otsu succumbs to the injury he picked up during that match.
Promising Nagoya Grampus Eight striker Kensuke Nagai should keep his place at the center of Takashi Sekizuka's three-man attack, having been extremely impressive at Hampden Park.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- This is the seventh Olympic tournament that Morocco has entered into, its best showing came at the 1972 Munich Games when it progressed to the second round.
- Only Senegal (one) has less domestic-based players in its squad than Morocco, which has Abdelatif Noussir and Mohamed Abarhoun from its home league
- Abdelaziz Barrada (pictured), scorer of Morocco's opening goal of London 2012, has only one season of professional first-team football under his belt, at the age of 23.
- Neither of these two squads have used their full quota of three Over-23 players. Kharja and Amrabat are Morocco's, Yuhei Tokunaga is Japan's only over-age player
- Japan won the bronze medal at the Olympics in 1968.
- Five Japanese players are set to ply their trade in the German Bundesliga next season: Hiroki Sakai (Hannover), Gotoku Sakai (Stuttgart), Takashi Usami (Hoffenheim), Hiroshi Kiyotake (Nurnberg), Yuki Otsu (Borussia Monchengladbach).
- Japan has won all three matches it has played since arriving in Britain two weeks ago: beating Belarus 1-0 and Mexico 2-1 in pre-tournament friendlies, as well as the 1-0 win over Spain.
Top 3 Predictions
Japan Under 23 2-0 Morocco U-23
- 23.8 %
Japan Under 23 2-1 Morocco U-23
- 12.36 %
Japan Under 23 3-0 Morocco U-23
- 11.67 %
|Olympic Games (OLY)||Jul 29, 2012||Japan Under 23 1 - Morocco U-23 0|
|Japan Under 23|
|Aug 10, 2012||South Korea Under 23 2 - Japan Under 23 0||OLY|
|Aug 7, 2012||Mexico U23 3 - Japan Under 23 1||OLY|
|Aug 4, 2012||Japan Under 23 3 - Egypt U-23 0||OLY|
|Aug 1, 2012||Japan Under 23 0 - Honduras U23 0||OLY|
|Jul 29, 2012||Japan Under 23 1 - Morocco U-23 0||OLY|
|4||Abdelhamid El Kaoutari||Defender|
|-||Omar El Kaddouri||Midfielder|
|17||Soufian El Hassnaoui||Striker|
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed