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Terence Ong
Wednesday, Oct 8, 2014

Sports

Brazil flair v Japan teamwork

The Straits Times | Terence Ong | Wednesday, Oct 8, 2014

Japanese midfielder Shunsuke Nakatake (left) with his S-League club Hougang United team-mate, Brazilian striker Geison Moura.

One is flashy and enjoys performing for a crowd, the other is more measured, emphasising strong work ethic rather than flair.

The descriptions apply not only to S-League club Hougang United's Geison Moura and Shunsuke Nakatake, but also to the football from their respective home countries Brazil and Japan, who face off in a glamorous friendly match at the National Stadium on Oct 14.

Ahead of the mega clash, The Straits Times spoke to the duo to find out what defines the Selecao and Samurai Blue.

"Brazilian football is all about individualism like the talents of Neymar, Oscar, Willian and even David Luiz at the back," said Geison, 28, a pacy striker who is his club's leading scorer this season with 17 goals.

Prior to joining Hougang this year, the Sao Caetano native spent four years plying his trade in the United States in various competitions, including the second-tier North American Football

League that is ranked below the Major League Football competition.

"Those players have what we Brazilians call ginga - loosely translated as swagger. It's the confidence on the ball that gives them the ability to get out of tight markings or just create an opportunity out of nothing."

That attribute will come in handy against a Japanese side whose strength, according to Nakatake, is in limiting space to opponents by defending together as a solid unit.

"We are not tall, powerful or speedy like others but Japanese football is about being a compact unit and keeping hold of possession," said Nakatake, 24.

The defensive midfielder from Kanagawa prefecture, who came to Singapore last year, spent a season in the amateur National Football League with Eunos Crescent before signing for Hougang.

"(In that sense), Japanese football is beautiful too. We have a good first touch and our passing, whether long or short, is very good, which helps us build on our attacks."

Both teams are still in a period of transition after disappointing outings at the Brazil World Cup. Out went Brazil's Luiz Felipe Scolari and Japan's Alberto Zaccheroni, to be replaced by new coaches Dunga and Javier Aguirre.

But while both teams have yet to hit top form under their new head coaches, fans can still look forward to some of the biggest names in world football.

For Geison, the biggest draw from Brazil will be Neymar, the 22-year-old captain who has "shown over the years that he can not only score goals but lead the team".

In Japan's case, Shinji Kagawa is one player who could thrill the National Stadium crowd, with Nakatake singling him out as the Asian champions' best player.

The Borussia Dortmund player was recalled to the national squad after impressing since returning to Germany from Manchester United.

And Nakatake knows first hand how good the attacking midfielder is, having played alongside him in the same FC Miyagi youth team from 2003 to 2005.

"Even then, he was already very quick and could pass and shoot well," he said. "I knew he was a very special talent that could succeed at the top."

It has been nearly 10 years since they last saw each other, and though Nakatake is unsure if his former team-mate will remember him, he is excited at the prospect of reconnecting with him.

"It'll be great to see him again and catch up but at the end of the day, I'm hoping for an exciting game between the two sides no matter the result."


This article was first published on October 6, 2014.
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