Although the last episode of Giant Killing saw East Tokyo United's defensive force finally display the confidence and ability to at least somewhat subdue their dangerous opponents, this improvement merely switched the focus of the team's problems to the other end of the pitch, with Natsuki apparently suffering a crisis of confidence caused at least in part by a comment imparted upon him by Tatsumi prior to this big game.
The thought that Natsuki isn't determined enough to be a good forward is clearly hanging like a weight from Natsuki's shoulders in this match, but that's only part of the problem - more specifically, Natsuki seemed to be concerned with some of Tatsumi's deeper comments about his role. Put simply, Tatsumi holds a very modern opinion on the role of a forward - he isn't just there to score goals, rather he's simply another cog in the wheel of the team's goalscoring machine, with an expectation that goals can come from anywhere on the pitch and that forwards should be providers as much as they are goal scorers themselves. This is certainly more and more true of modern forwards, as out and out strikers become less common in preference to players with more all-round ability. However, what Tatsumi didn't say to Natsuki is that he understands that there is still a role for an instinctive, greedy, hungry striker in a team - his probing was simply to find out whether Natsuki is that kind of player or not, a question which Natsuki's ponderous play in this game suggests he isn't when it comes to the crunch.
Aside from Natsuki's personal crisis, there's plenty of other matters to take in as the match progresses - While Kubota is still thoroughly enjoying himself, come the end of the episode we see that his stamina perhaps isn't what it ought to be, and it's suggested that he isn't the only one; a fact which could open up the game for ETU and in particular the ever-energetic Tsubaki, whose pace takes us to the big (and rather cruel) cliff-hanger at the end of the episode.
While I could argue that a little too much time was spent psychoanalysing Natsuki's role in the team and how he views his place within it, from a football fan's point of view it was a fascinating and rather true insight into modern football - a game where forwards are expected to do a lot more than just score six-yard tap-ins, yet a game where forwards still get blasted by the press and fans if they don't score regularly. Witness Wayne Rooney for England on Friday - three assists for the four goals, yet there are still plenty of people out there bemoaning his goal drought. Anyhow, this blending with the odd dollop of action from the big game was enough to do it for me; the trouble is, I'm not sure I can wait an entire week for that most horrible of cliff-hangers to be revealed. Looks like I'm going to have to though...