Japanese Soccer

JAPAN STARTS PRODUCING

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.

ZACCHERONI LINKED

Japanese coach Alberto Zaccheroni has been linked heavily with a return to Italian football with rumours about the national team looking to hire him as a replacement for Cesare Prandelli. As the current national team coach, Prandelli has done exceedingly well, but he is looking at returning to love football after the end of the World Cup. He has gained immense reputation since becoming Italy’s manager and it is thought that several top clubs like AC Milan and Manchester United would want to hire the manager.

This would leave Italy once again looking for a top manager and they are believed to have zeroed in on Zaccheroni, who has done extremely well with the Japanese national team. He has managed to immerse himself in Japanese football extremely well. It has helped him find new players with consistent hits. It has been a major reason behind Japan qualifying for the World Cup 2014 with ease. In Brazil, Japan will be up against Colombia, Greece, and Ivory Coast in the group stages. This is seen as a great opportunity for the nation to get into the knockout stages since all of the teams are at the same level – if not – below than Japan.

Zaccheroni, though, has insisted that he has not received any offers from Italy and that there has been no contract as well.

“I’ll wait until the end of the World Cup and I will decide based on what proposals arrive. I don’t even know when this call [from the FIGC] could arrive. Until now, anyway, nobody from Italy has called me. My intention is to decide [his future] in July, not that I know if others can wait until that time,” said the manager, who has been involved in Japanese football since becoming their national team manager in 2010.

FORLAN JOINS J-LEAGUE

Uruguay striker Diego Forlan has undoubtedly become the highest profile player to play in the Japanese J-League in its history. The former Manchester United and Atletico Madrid striker made the move to Cerezo Osaka and stated that it is extremely good for his prospects are the World Cup 2014. Forlan is undoubtedly expected to be in the squad, as Uruguay hope to do well in the World Cup 2014. He was a major influence on the team coming close to an unlikely victory in the 2010 edition. Even at 34 years of age, his influence on the team has not waned.

After spending the last two years with Brazilian outfit Internacional, Forlan decided to make the move to Japanese football. He will be one of the highest earning players in this league after reportedly agreeing a contract worth around $ 5.8 million per year. Contrary to reports, he has stated that the move to Osaka will actually help him do well in the World Cup. Uruguay will be facing a tough group stage since their opponents will be the likes of Italy and England.

Forlan received a huge reception upon his arrival to his new club. More than 1000 fans are thought to have turned up at the airport to see their star arrive. The 34-year-old said that the reception has been unexpected.

“I’m not worried about that at all. The level of football here is very high from both a technical and physical standpoint so if anything, I think this will be good preparation for the World Cup. I’ve never received such a reception. This is my third time to visit Japan and I am always impressed by the level of respect people are given here,” said the striker after completing the move. Forlan has already played in six different countries.

HONDA SIGNS FOR AC

Keisuke Honda has undoubtedly been one of the stars of Japanese football in the last decade and he made a major move by signing for AC Milan. Even though they are not as successful as they once were, Milan will still provide him with an opportunity to get a lot of exposure in world football. The 27-year-old is at the peak of his career. Hence, it was probably right for him to move from a club like CSKA Moscow, which does not have a lot of international pedigree, to a club that has won seven Champions league titles.

The forward has been signed on a free transfer, while also becoming the first Japanese to play for the Italian club. Italian Alberto Zaccheroni, who is in charge of the Japanese national team, says that it will take a lot of mental strength in order to be successful at a club like Milan. Zaccheroni is someone who was Milan extremely well after being linked heavily with the managerial job only in recent weeks. Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri recently announced that he will step down from the post in the New Year.

Despite this, Honda is expected to be a key player for Milan, who have lost a number of quality individuals in recent years.

“Honda has the physical strength, the technique and the mentality to more than succeed in the Serie A at Milan. You need a strong personality to make it at Milan, and Keisuke has that on top of all the other tools you need to have, like the physicality and skill. When (Shinji) Kagawa joined Manchester United, I remember telling him that he was only getting started and signing with them was not his goal,” said Zaccheroni.

Milan are currently in the bottom half of the table after a very poor first half of the campaign.