Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Eintracht Hopes Hinge on Takahara

The following article appeared on www.uefa.org recently regarding our UEFA Cup opponents and I wanted to share. It was written by Frankfurt journalist Steffen Potter. You can read the article, in its entirety, on www.uefa.org.



Eintracht Frankfurt hope Japan striker Naohiro Takahara can make his mark on the UEFA Cup after finally finding his feet in German football.

Japanese pedigree

When he moved to Hamburger SV from Jubilo Iwata in 2002, Takahara came with a substantial pedigree - he had scored 26 goals in 27 games in his last season on home soil. However, a tally of 13 goals from 97 matches at Hamburg persuaded the forward to consider his future in the summer.

Eintracht doubts

Having earned a UEFA Cup place as German Cup runners-up, Eintracht expressed an interest in taking the 27-year-old away from Hamburg, even if their chairman Heribert Bruchhagen had his doubts. "We thought Takahara was not really dangerous in front of goal," he said. The pacy attacker agreed to the switch, and although he has taken time to settle in Frankfurt, he finally feels up to speed with Bundesliga life. "The league is very strong and very fast, but this is no problem for me," he explained.

Missed chances

Despite Takahara having scored twice for Japan in a 2-2 summer friendly draw against Germany, Eintracht fans took persuading when it came to their new striker. Three goals in his first ten league games marked a poor return, and the late opportunity that Takahara let slip in the 0-0 UEFA Cup Group H draw against Newcastle United FC on 30 November proved particularly galling for supporters. Coach Friedhelm Funkel jumped to his defence, however: "Often he is unfairly criticised. We don't have a problem in attack."

Hat-trick relief

Takahara finally silenced his critics in his next match, scoring a hat-trick in a 3-2 Bundesliga win at TSV Alemannia Aachen and fitting in brilliantly alongside Alexander Meier in a counterattacking formation. Aachen coach Michael Frontzeck said: "There is no team in the Bundesliga who counterattack like Eintracht." Funkel was relieved, saying: "Now everyone can see why we signed him. This makes me especially happy because he proved all his critics wrong."

Istanbul trip

Takahara, who now has six goals from 12 league outings, could make little impact as Eintracht were mauled 6-2 at home by Werder Bremen at the weekend, but fans will hope he gets better service in Wednesday's game against Fenerbah├že SK in Turkey. Eintracht must win to progress to the UEFA Cup Round of 32 and this time, the forward can ill afford any missed chances.

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