Japan might have done Celtic a favour: Bobo Balde example, five players could still be off, mixed Postecoglou emotions

Celtic’s Ange Postecoglou will be no different from the vast majority of coaches in the game.

He will desperately want his players to experience all forms of career development, and to see them scale the heights in the football firmament. The World Cup that begins in Qatar in three weeks affords that for those selected. In that sense, he will be dumped for Kyogo Furuhashi and Reo Hatate following the news that they have failed to make the cut for the Japan squad. A pool in which Daizen Maeda features. Equally, though, he wouldn’t be human if there wasn’t a part of him relieved, to an extent, that Furuhashi and Hatate – two of his integral performers – won’t face the mentally and physically draining exertions guaranteed by the Middle East jamboree, smack bang in the middle of the campaign.

With Aaron Mooy and Josip Juranovic stick-ons to represent Australia and Croatia in the tournament, and Portuguese winger Jota and US centre-back Cameron Carter-Vickers pushing for inclusion in their respective squads, there is the possibility that come the end December and the resumption of the cinch Premiership, he will be required to carefully re-integrate a handful of first-choices following World Cup duties. That is going to be a tricky proposition for all the managers affected by the Qatar scheduling. In a sense, with the shut-down six weeks, the second half of this curious 2022-23 season will feel like the beginning of a new campaign.

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There can be no certainty that players who go deep in the World Cup won’t come back a little frayed through having to recalibrate for club commitments. It would be more surprising if that wasn’t the case. The parallel is inexact, but it isn’t unknown for those who take part in the Africa Cup of Nations – staged across January – to suffer form dips when they jump straight back to club football. Privately, Celtic manager Martin O’Neill used to lament that his sometimes wayward, battering-ram defender Bobo Balde “never came back” following Guinea’s progress to the quarter finals in the 2004 tournament. He allowed himself to drift into a mindset of playing looser and without the discipline that had been constantly drilled into him at Celtic. O’Neill struggled to shake him out of those bad habits over the closing months of that season. Postecoglou, then, might have more comforting words to offer than simply commiserations as he speaks to the disappointed duo of Furuhashi and Hatate today.

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou and his striker Kyogo Furuhashi.
Reo Hatate, like Furuhashi, has missed the cut for the Japan World Cup squad.