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Japan will be at their peak physical condition when they head into the World Cup according to its coach Alberto Zaccheroni, who has modified the team in such a way that they are extremely good to watch. Coming into the World Cup 2014 as one of the top teams from Asia, much will be expected from Japan. They have done extremely well to win the three pretournament friendly matches up until now. They will still be facing the likes of Costa Rica and Zambia before taking on Ivory Coast in the first match of the World Cup.
Due to the recent form of the Ivorian’s, Japan have been installed as the favourites to get a win. This would put them in good shape ahead of the remaining two matches against Greece and Colombia. This could be the final tournament in charge of the Japan national team for Zaccheroni, as he is widely linked with a return to European club football. Key players like Maya Yoshida, Atsuto Uchida, and Makoto Hasebe have been lacking in gametime. However, they finally got it in the match against Cyprus, which finished as a 1-0 win for the Japanese.
Uchida scored the only goal of the game in the 43rd minute to give himself some confidence ahead of the tournament. “This team has a lot of experience with more players playing on the big stages in Europe. There weren’t so many players on our team playing abroad four years ago and we didn’t have much international experience. But now the players playing in Japan have also improved, and that combined with the fact that we have more international experience makes this team a different proposition from the one four years ago,” said Japan’s goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.
Kawashima is the goalkeeper for Belgian outfit Standard Liege.
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Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni has come out with his final 23 man squad for the World Cup 2014 and it rings no surprises since the Italian has named his strongest squad possible. This even includes players like Shinji Kagawa, who has found the first team opportunities limited at Old Trafford this season. Yet, the former Borussia Dortmund man remains an important part of the Japanese squad partly because Zaccheroni plays him in his favourite position. At Manchester United, he has been used out wide, which has not always been his position.
AC Milan midfielder Honda is also in the squad and these two players will be getting on the headlines, as Japan prepare to fly out for Brazil in the next few weeks. Japan will be coming up against Greece, Ivory Coast, and Colombia in the group stages. Hence, they are seen as having a great opportunity to reach the knockout stages since none of the teams are favourites. Colombia were thought to be the favourites, but the injury to Radamel Falcao has changed the whole dynamic of the group. Zaccheroni says that he is feeling confident ahead of the World Cup 2014.
This could be his last tournament in charge of the Japanese national team since he has been linked with a return to club football with AC Milan.
“The basic thing I looked for was quality, and we have a lot of players with that. The next thing was the harmony of the team, because that will be important. I went for players with a high level of tactical intelligence and versatility. As much as possible, I wanted players who could play in two or more positions,” said Zaccheroni, who has made the Japanese football team into a dream for attacking football, but they have struggled with defence of late.
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Japanese football has been producing a number of high profile players in recent years. Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa has been one of them. They have also been extremely good at producing high-quality strikers. Even though some of them have not been proved to the very top level, they have been slowly making an impact nonetheless. Albirex Niigata striker Kengo Kawamata has been one of them. Kawamata has so far not been part of Alberto Zaccheroni’s plans for the World Cup, but he has been one of the impressive Japanese strikers around.
He managed to score 23 goals in just 32 matches last season. Despite that, he has found himself nowhere near the Japanese first-team. The striker, though, is unconcerned about this aspect, as he simply wants to impress the manager and hope for the best. He is not looking to grab the World Cup place in the final minute. J-League players will be given a last chance to impress and get into the squad when they will be part of the camp in Brazil. Kawamata was part of the squad that took part in a 70 minute training session.
After the session, Kawamata said to reporters that he was just trying to learn the concept of playing under Zaccheroni.
“I want to show what I am made of and make an impression when we have a match on the final day of the camp. It wasn’t really full-on practice today, I just learned about the team concept. I was a bit hesitant at the start but gradually fitted in. It is my dream to play at the World Cup, but I am not looking at that just yet. I am just going to take each day as it comes here,” said the striker, whose team play in a friendly match against Cyprus at the end of May.
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