Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni unveiled his 23-man squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, including surprise choice Yoshito Okubo.
“We will respect our opponents but certainly won’t be frightened,” the 61-year-old Italian said Monday. “If you go into a game with fear, you’re in trouble. We need to go in prepared and bring our own qualities. We have a lot of attacking players.”
Zaccheroni lined up high-profile overseas players as expected for the Japan National Team, including national team standbys Honda and Kagawa, as well as Mainz 05 striker Shinji Okazaki and Standard Liege goalie Eiji Kawashima.
The surprise was Kawasaki Frontale striker Yoshito Okubo, a relatively new name in the roll call. The 31-year-old forward started all four of Japan’s games at the Japan National Team 2010 World Cup but has appeared only once in the past four years under Zaccheroni.
“It was extremely difficult to choose only 23 players, since there were more than 23 who deserved to go play in Brazil,” Zaccheroni said at a press conference held at a Tokyo hotel.
“I’ve had the squad in my head a while but I wanted to have a look at as many players as possible.”
“I chose as many players as possible who can cover two or more positions,” he added.
“With Okubo it’s maybe quicker to explain why I hadn’t chosen him until now,” said Zaccheroni. “He’s a player with experience and a nose for [the] goal, and someone who is capable of creating chances at any time.”
Okubo scored the second most goals in the J. League this season, and adding his prolific goal-scoring form since his 2013 move to Frontale made him the missing puzzle piece to Zaccheroni’s full-strength squad.
“Even though it went right up to the last moment, he was able to show me what I was looking for,” said Zaccheroni.
For their opening game, the Japan National Team will play Ivory Coast in Recife on June 14, followed by Greece in Natal on June 19.
2014 FIFA World Cup Japan National Team Lineup
Eiji Kawashima (Standard Liege)
Shusaku Nishikawa (Urawa Red Diamonds)
Shuichi Gonda (FC Tokyo)
Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan)
Maya Yoshida (Southampton)
Yasuyuki Konno (Gamba Osaka)
Masahiko Inoha (Jubilo Iwata)
Masato Morishige (FC Tokyo)
Atsuto Uchida (Schalke 04)
Hiroki Sakai (Hannover 96)
Gotoku Sakai (Stuttgart)
Makoto Hasebe (Nuremberg)
Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka)
Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka)
Toshihiro Aoyama (Sanfrecce Hiroshima)
Hiroshi Kiyotake (Nuremberg)
Keisuke Honda (AC Milan)
Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United)
Shinji Okazaki (Mainz 05)
Yuya Osako (1860 Munich)
Yoichiro Kakitani (Cerezo Osaka)
Yoshito Okubo (Kawasaki Frontale)
Manabu Saito (Yokohama Marinos)
By Maesie Bertumen
Image: “Adidas Brazuca” by Choo Yut Shing/Flickr
Japan National Team