FSV Mainz 05 will be spearheaded by their Asian attacking trio when they attempt to stop Bayern Munich’s relentless march to the Bundesliga title today.
Japan striker Shinji Okazaki is their top scorer with 11 goals in 24 league games, which has lifted Mainz to fifth and among the European places for next season.
Okazaki plays in front of a diamond midfield formation, headed by attacking midfielder Koo Ja-cheol, whose fellow South Korea international Park Joo-ho is on the left wing.
The 27-year-old Okazaki is just one short of Shinji Kagawa’s record for a Japanese player of 13 goals in a Bundesliga season, set before Kagawa left Borussia Dortmund to join Manchester United in 2012.
Okazaki netted twice in Mainz’s stunning comeback at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim on Saturday last week, which they won 4-2 with three goals in eight second-half minutes.
Yet the Japan star admits Bayern, who could be confirmed league champions at Mainz if both rivals, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04, draw or lose, will be a step up.
“I’m not sure how, but we’ve managed to get ourselves up into fifth and hopefully we can build on this,” Okazaki said.
“But let in one against Bayern and it’s all over, so we’ll have to play much better than we did at Hoffenheim,” he added.
Okazaki has been a revelation for Mainz, spearheading the attack, rather than playing out wide as he did at his former club, VfB Stuttgart, since transferring in July last year.
He has scored twice in four league games and has benefited recently from Koo’s silky passing since the South Korea captain joined from VfL Wolfsburg in January.
Likewise, Park has prospered under Mainz coach Thomas Tuchel by switching from leftback at former club Basel to a spot on the left wing.
“Our Asians are awesome,” Tuchel said, praising the trio for their “selflessness, sacrifices for the team, enormous diligence, modesty and speed of action.”
“If they are all like that in Asia, I’d have to urgently become a national coach somewhere over there,” he added.
While Kagawa had a full-time translator during his seasons in Dortmund, Mainz’s budget means Tuchel speaks to Okazaki and Koo in German, but in English with Park.
“You don’t need to speak perfect German to understand what the coach means. At the end of the day, football terminology is all the same,” as Kagawa once put it.
Tuchel admits he has been particularly impressed with how Park and Koo have performed.
“He [Park] was simply thrown in at the deep end in the Bundesliga,” the coach said.
“Joo-ho is very, very valuable. He can play in the defensive midfield position, his versatility is a gift for me, because he opens up lots of possibilities,” he added.
Since his arrival, Koo has given Tuchel a new dynamic to the midfield with his box-to-box running and flexible interplay with frontmen Okazaki and Cameroon striker Eric Choupo-Moting.
Unbeaten in their past five games, Mainz are just three points off fourth place in the league, which carries a Champions League place, but Bayern present a huge test.
“We need to be brave and believe in a sensational win against Bayern Munich,” Tuchel said, with star-studded Bayern coming to Mainz looking for their 18th consecutive league win.
Hong Kong media reported that police briefly detained a man in a Liverpool team jersey who shouted “long live Liverpool” during anti-government protests on Wednesday, over suspicion that he was inciting independence. In-Media reported that the man was across the street from police officers who were conducting stop-and-searches on a group of protesters, when he shouted: “Long live Liverpool.” Others reportedly cheered and joined in the chant, before officers detained him. The man told In-Media that police had accused him of inciting Hong Kong independence, which now is a punishable crime. He said that he has been a fan of the English soccer
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday said that he had called in the “third umpire” as he announced that recreational cricket would be allowed to resume next weekend. In a radio interview earlier on Friday, Johnson angered thousands of club cricketers by saying that the amateur game was still not safe to play amid the COVID-19 pandemic because of issues surrounding communal teas and dressing rooms. “It’s the teas, it’s the changing rooms and so on and so forth. There are other factors involved that generate proximity which you might not get in a game of tennis,” he said. Johnson had already
WOLFSBURG BEATEN: Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski scored from a penalty, his 34th league goal this season, finishing as the top Bundesliga scorer for the fifth time Werder Bremen gave themselves hope of avoiding relegation from the Bundesliga by thrashing Cologne 6-1 to grab a playoff place on the last day of the season, while champions Bayern Munich routed VfL Wolfsburg before lifting the trophy on Saturday. Japan striker Yuya Osako scored twice as Bremen stole the lifeline of the relegation/promotion playoff place from Fortuna Duesseldorf, who lost 3-0 against Union Berlin and were relegated with SC Paderborn, finishing one point behind Bremen. “We put in a great performance under pressure, but we are aware that we haven’t achieved anything — in the relegation playoff, the emotions will be
Raptors guard Fred VanVleet is already in Florida with the rest of his Toronto teammates, and he knows the time to take a stand and counter the NBA plan to restart the season has passed, but his opinion on the matter has not changed. “It sucks,” VanVleet said on Monday in a videoconference of his choice to return to the court during the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter campaign. “It’s terrible timing, but that’s been 2020 for us. We all know the right thing to do is to not play, to take a stand. Morally, yes, that makes sense, but