James Burbidge takes a look at Team Japan in the fourth instalment of his World Games series.
About the Team
Matsuno Masahiro is the name that stands out here. Recognized around the world as the best player to have come out of Japan, he was picked 5th in a mock draft in 2009* and invited to play with Furious George for the US club series in 2010. Against North American competition he is usually the defender to draw the toughest match-up (having guarded Beau in the 2009 World Games, will he do the same this year?), and is usually the spark on offense: he is very speedy and has very quick, big, accurate throws. However, he was mysteriously sidelined for much Japan’s campaign at WUGC 2012 – they (and spectators like myself) will be hoping that problem doesn’t occur again.
The other notable name on the men’s side of the team is Kurono Masashi – he is the only player not to come from the dominant Buzz Bullets team, instead playing the last few years with Sack [edit: apparently he has recently moved to Buzz Bullets]. He lead the Japanese Open team in combined stats at WUGC 2012. Standout handlers for that team, Tanaka Mizuho and Takahashi Yasuo also make the team, and it is worth noting that Tanaka is returning for his second World Games, alongside Sameshima Satoru.
On the women’s side of the team players are drawn from a wider pool, including UNO, MUD and Huck. Returners to the World Games team include. Fujikawa Akina lead the combined stats for the gold-medal winning Japanese team at WUGC 2012, closely followed by Enzu Eri Both dominated in assists, so expect them to step up as handlers for the team. Inomata Sanako was second in goals at WUGC 2012, she and the and equally speedy Ito Madoka are likely to be key receivers for the team, streaking deep and getting free in the endzone.
|Enzu Eri catches ahead of USA’s Kaela Jorgensen. Picture courtesy of Neil Gardner at nzsnaps.com
Coaches and Expected Playing Style
The distinctive Japanese playing style took the world by storm back in Perth in 2006, and whilst the specifics of it have changed since then, in principal most Japanese teams play the same way. Lead by two Buzz Bullets and a MUD player (part of the 2009 team), I would expect typical Japanese Ultimate from this team.
On offense their small-ball skills are lethal as their handlers break the mark, throw precise lead passes and use give-and-go dumps extremely effectively to get around the defense. Their long game usually relies on putting quite a lot of edge on the throw and being extremely precise – they tend to go around defenders, rather than floating it out for a play to be made. Defensively, this team will probably be one of the few with some extremely well-drilled zones and junky sets in their arsenal. Unlike the cups and walls of yore, these zones will be poachy, floaty and include some man-marking, designed to confuse and frustrate the offense. Traditionally the single-sex Japanses teams have had great success with these zones, but it remains to be seen how effective they will be in an elite Mixed setting.
Expected Finishing Place
Again, a team that could finish anywhere, from 1st to last. However, I expect the direct style of play other teams will be able to bring (i.e. put it high and jump for it), and the small rosters to play against the Japanese.
*other notable names include Beau at 2nd, Dylan Tunnell at 12th and Tom Rogacki at 65th.
WG coverage Update from ulti.tv: WFDF have just completed the contractual details and it is all looking good, no links to where the coverage will be yet but as soon as we get them we will post them everywhere. But here is the schedule for your timezone. Keep supporting our GB athletes in Toronto playing now and on their way to Cali! DP @ tSG.