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Who Is Zico Japan?
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Every time new information gets added to the table below, this entry will pop to the top of the page.



I will begin populating the right hand column of the table below with whatever information I think of that may be fun to read about and/or small but appropriate video clips I can dig up. As I work on this table, I will also introduce my post on the style and philosophy of the team, though I'm sure you are already familiar with most of it. I figure it will be good for me to lay down in one place the information so maybe one day in the future I can come back to this time and see if "history" as we see it now is the same years down the road.

japan world cup squad zico team players

Profile of National Team Coaching Staff: >>click to read previous post

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Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi
GK
Aug 15 1975
179cm/78kg
>>a profile I did on Kawaguchi last year. The three goalies on this squad are all very different in style. Whereas Narazaki is cool, Kawaguchi is hot. He has a very aggressive style of defending the goal. If you read the profile I linked to above, you know that Kawaguchi has had some big spiritual (in the football sense) epiphanies over the years since WC 02. He saved many a shot during the France World Cup, but the team was only able to score one goal and did not win any games. Kawaguchi has yet to know what it feels like to win a game at the World Cup. In WC02, he had to take a back seat to Narazaki, and played in no games. Kawaguchi reasserted his number one position in 2004 after Narazaki injured himself during a European friendly, when Yoshi became savior time and time again during the now-legendary Asia Cup in China. He returned to J-league club Jubilo this season, and we have seen another demeanor change -- he is moving away from the "benevolent buddha" to a more aggressive and demanding presence. He feels it is more appropriate for the atmosphere of preparing and playing in the WC. Back in his younger days, he was a very excitable player with a wrath that put the fear of god in his teammates -- defender Makoto Tanaka admitted that back in high school (they were at the same school in Shizuoka), Kawaguchi was terribly scary and loud, shouting non-stop from behind.
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Seigo Narazaki
GK
April 15 1976
185cm/76kg
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Yoichi Doi
GK
July 25 1973
184cm/84kg
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Keisuke Tsuboi
DF
Sept 16 1979
179cm/67kg
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Makoto Tanaka
DF
Aug 8 1975
178cm/74kg
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Yuji Nakazawa
DF
Feb 25 1978
187cm/78kg
>>Read profile on Nakazawa written last year The past year for Nakazawa (since I wrote the profile above) has not been a fantastic one, at least not by 2003-4 standards. Nakazawa of course is one of the fairy tale stories of someone who was no one making it to the top of the professional league -- considering how far he has grown since he first set out to become a pro when no one wanted him. His success is probably best reflected in the fact that he won the MVP award -- the only defender to win it in a category where usually it is the goal-getters. He's also been a fantastic role model in the sense of being a big powerful and dependable presence on the back line without the typical characteristics of inconsistencies in emotional maturity and over-aggression to the detriment of teamwork. He is one of the players who pays particular attention to mates who got cut or benched -- during his world cup squad announcement press conference, he started off the session by offering loyal words to Marinos teammate Kubo who was dropped from the team at the last minute. And as you would expect in Japan, what's a great story without a manga to go along? Yup, Nakazawa's life story will be coming out as a mange book in June. Considering his is a greate role-model story, I hardly have any objections -- but you guys must think all we do is publish manga in this country! As I mentioned above, this has not been a great past year for Nakazawa, but he has been consistent in his average, making him probably the only player on the squad who I would consider irreplaceable in Germany.
--Added: Nakazawa just missed out on WC02, having been taken out in the last cut.
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Alessandro Santos
DF/MF
July 20 1977
178cm/69kg
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Tsuneyasu Miyamoto
DF
Feb 7 1977
176cm/72kg
In the role of Captain, Miyamoto has tag-teamed with Hide Nakata for quite a while. When people are asked to describe him with one word, one often hears adjectives like "cool", "intelligent", "fashionable", and "leader". But this last word "leader" may be a little misunderstood by people who hear it without understanding the nature of Miyamoto's role on the team. "Organizer" would probably be a better word to describe him. From his schoolboy days, he has always stood at the forefront of his peers: student government, model student, picked by his classmates to take on the responsibility and leadership of upcoming events. But rather than be the kind of man who forms a gang around him and leads them into various adventures and escapades, he leads with a sense of democratic organization. You might call it "herding". I once saw an interview of Iran's Ali Daei, and when asked who he felt held the key to threatening Iran's chances during the qualification process, Daei said "Miyamoto, because of his intelligence." It's hard not to be less than convinced when one sees Miyamoto on the pitch against teams that average 185cm in height. Miyamoto is only 176cm, and there are a number of very respectable taller defenders in Japan who may be reassuring to see in terms of the physical. But Tsune, as he is called by his teammates, is credited with bringing an intangible factor to the squad through his presence -- something you cannot measure with a ruler. This quality has been best expressed on the various national squads (from U- to Youth, to A), as opposed to his club. From last year to this season, he has been on and off the starting lineup at club Gamba Osaka -- partly due to fatigue, partly due to strategic considerations, but nevertheless the club has been able to find steady success even in his absence. On the national squad however, his style of "herder organization" has played a key role at various turning points. I mentioned in >>this entry (see last portion "Who's the Boss"), how he essentially instigated the rebellion on the WC02 squad. It was a decision made by the players but the discussion was initiated by Miyamoto, and the resulting strategy was put into play by him on the pitch as he controlled the back line. Zico Japan brought a host of new challenges for the National Team captain. Zico's idea of "freedom" was more a "throw the boys into the water and watch them learn to swim". It was not always pretty, and in some of the more crucial or environmentally difficult competition matches, Miyamoto was careful to the point of irritation. Many supporters complained that Zico had no defensive strategy, and that while Edu and Zico took care of the forwards and midfielders, the defenders were left to be organized by Miyamoto. Zico's only advice given to players was to leave edited video footage of the upcoming opponent in the lounge room. Players were welcomed but not forced to watch these videos -- Miyamoto's teammates would joke that they would walk into the lounge and gasp, "You're watching the video again?!". In essence, for much of the past four years it has been Miyamoto who has been thinking about and planning and discussing and implementing the defense. In other instances, he changed the course of the team's destiny by acting at crucial moments -- remember the Asia Cup quarterfinal against Jordan in which the ref agreed to change the goal used for the penalty shoot-out, or >>the night in the UAE before the Bahrain away game when the team was about to lose confidence (see under "Legend of May 31st"). Miyamoto stepped in to call a players-only meeting, and a lot of baggage and fears were cleared up. In 2005, when many of the Europe-based players started returning to the team (like Hide Nakata, et al after injuries and such), it was Miyamoto who smoothed the gap between what was back in 2003-4 a huge rift. Nakata and Miyamoto have been playing together since they were teenagers, and know each other inside-out. Back a few years ago, only Miyamoto was in a position to speak freely with Hide -- now of course, we've seen an immense change on the team, both from Hide (who's mentality towards his role in the team has evolved) and the other players. As a player, Miyamoto will be challenged by the obvious physical disadvantages against international standards. Croatia and Australia in particular have height averages in the low/mid-180s. This is nothing new to him -- he has been playing in international matches against those bigger than he since his teens.
-Added: Miyamoto is also admired for having studied through his first few years as a pro-footballer. Upon getting a contract from Gamba, he decided that it was important to get a university degree and commuted back and forth from school while also doing studies through correspondence. Miyamoto's English ability was also highlighted during the Asia Cup game against Jordan where he appealed to the ref to change goals. Things have not been easy for him despite the sheen of elitism in his career -- he had struggled to find a place for himself at Gamba back in the early days, sometimes being forced to play a defensive midfield position. He was also just about to sign a contract with a European team a number of years ago, only to have that fall apart -- and worse, to learn that Gamba had already proceeded to find someone to replace him. In WC02, he was not a starter, but the injury to Morioka game Tsune an opportunity to show that there are ways a little guy like him can be a significant presence.
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Yuuichi Komano
DF/MF
July 25 1981
171cm/71kg
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Koji Nakata
DF
July 9 1979
182cm/74kg
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Akira Kaji
DF/MF
Jan 13 1980
177cm/73kg
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Shinji Ono
MF
Sept 27 1979
175cm/74kg
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Mitsuo Ogasawara
MF
April 5 1979
173cm/72kg
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Hidetoshi Nakata
MF
Jan 22 1977
175cm/72kg
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Shunsuke Nakamura
MF
June 24 1978
178cm/73kg
>>read profile written just before Nakamura moved to Celtic last year. The biggest change since this previous profile was written has been that Nakamura has gone from a club only concerned with avoiding relegation to a club expected to lift at least one trophy during the season. Shun commented that back at Reggina, if he displayed good vision and kick quality by sending a point-blank cross to the other side the crowds would ignore it unless it directly led to a goal -- they did not care if a play showed creativity or skill to the extent he had hoped. At Celtic, every twitch of the foot, every display of soft touches, aggressive defending, quality kicks and shots, brought a reaction from the crowds. "C'mon Naka!", and he had the crowds tantalized in his more than successful debut appearance before the Hoops. Still, Nakamura has said, the challenge for him on the team was to consistently win a starting position on the team. He admitted that because it was such a quality side, even if the team played average they could come through with a win without too much trouble in most occasions. However, for him to convince manager Strachan to keep using him, he said the practice sessions were the hardest. He had to keep showing Strachan he was good, competing against a talented pool of player choices. Nakamura felt most rewarded not by the league trophy, but rather the fact that Strachan used him fairly consistently throughout the season. That was his biggest battle. In terms of the National Team, it was obvious from the outset that Zico was placing great faith and trust in the creative midfielder. In the first NT training session of the Zico era, the famous Brazilian handed Nakamura the prized Number 10 jersey. For Nakamura, the number 10 holds awesome meaning. It represents for him the embodiment of the kind of player he wants to be. And when the old guard Number 10s, like Ramos and Kimura (NT and at Marinos) retired, each had made a point to share a few words with Nakamura, telling him that he was to carry on the tradition and do the number proud. Nakamura, as you know, was a puny child, and actually had been initially rejected by the Marinos youth team. Though he made a good impact at the club when he did sign on, it did not convert to a like-place on the national squad under Troussier. To Shun, the playmaker position is his home. And Troussier kept using him on the left side. Nakamura admitted recently that in a way, his exclusion from the WC02 squad was of course painful and disappointing, but mixed with a sense of relief -- that this era of being forced to play in a position he was not comfortable in was over. He promised himself that in the following years, he would become the kind of player that was considered unequivocally necessary to the team, regardless of the National Team manager's style or strategy. Since 2002, Nakamura has gained several kilos and has maintained training that has made him stronger -- you may notice he doesn't topple over as easily anymore. Of course, at last year's Confederation's Cup, I think it was Ronaldinho who said "We didn't know about Nakamura." But now they do, and so do the other teams -- he won't be allowed to play freely. One thing I must say, upon seeing his recent attitude and demeanor, is that he definitely has an aura about him that he did not have four years ago. He is a thinking player, and has kept journals since high school -- they are filled with various strategy patterns, movement, types of free kicks, types of touch-work, and many pages of psychological and philosophical words of encouragement for himself. He is the only player from the Europe-based group that has battled through the toughest and most gruelling games during these past four years. He has the utmost trust of the squad, and of course of Zico himself.
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Junichi Inamoto
MF
Sept 18 1979
181cm/75kg
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Takashi Fukunishi
MF
Sept 1 1976
181cm/77kg
>>Previous entry with translation of short Soccer Digest article on Fukunishi. The defensive midfielder position on the National Team is extremely crowded. But Fukunishi has successfully secured a spot under Zico, squeezing out such stars like Inamoto and Ono for the starting lineup. During the time of Inamoto and Ono's absences, Fukunishi was given the opportunity to be a regular player during the most difficult of Japan's competitive matches. Back in 2004, the presence of Ono and Inamoto were so overwhelming we could not imagine what the team would be like without them. But now very few eyebrows are raised, and many believe he has earned that spot. You can always tell which player is Fukunishi because he has a very peculiar way of running -- a strange rhythm to his dribbling when he does it, and also a very unique passing rhythm. In Zico Japan, he's played in 47 games, the most I think for all the midfielders. An all-rounder, having played even as a forward in his younger days, Fuku is famous for having trained as a gymnast for most of his boyhood. People explain this as the reason for his balanced physique, long air-time, and good heading sense, and is particularly religious about proper stretching to warm and cool the body. The way he stands and walks, the posture he maintains caught the eyes of scouts back in his younger days; now it is still a way to recognize him on the pitch. He found his place at club Jubilo as a defensive midfielder under the tutelage of teammate Dunga (yes, that Dunga). Fukunishi gives off the image of being very "grown-up". Even when he was in his early twenties, he had that same demeanor and was often teased by teammates as being 20 going on 40. He keeps a very cool head during games, but is known to jab back at opponents in retaliation for an unnecessary foul. In the past year, we have seen him truly taking responsibility with respect to participating and actively seeking discussion among the team. Last year during the pre-Iran qualifier trainig camp, the media made a very big deal about Fukunishi standing up to Hide Nakata regarding issues of defensive coverage. The whole thing got rather blown out of proportion, but it was true that he was the first person on the team aside from Miyamoto who stepped up and openly debated with Hide. Fukunishi commented that he is now one of the older members of the team, and it is his responsibility to make sure that all opinions are aired. >>read prior entry regarding this incident (under "NT Update"). It helps that he is such a cool cucumber, and even more valuable that he opened up those talks with his partner in midfield. Fukunishi places a great emphasis on positioning balance during games, and though he does not scamper around (he is actually not a big fan of running) he essentially holds the fort while his partner midfielders change positions and participate on the attack. Fukunishi has a good goal instinct though, so he will also go up if he feels its worth the risk or the situation is promising; and of course he is an important weapon during FKs and corners. Last year Serie A's Cagliari appeared to be moving to seal a deal, but Fukunishi declined the offer -- one of his reasons being family considerations (he is married with two boys).
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Yasuhito Endo
MF
Jan 28 1980
178cm/75kg
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Atsushi Yanagisawa
FW
May 27 1977
177cm/73kg
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Keiji Tamada
FW
April 11 1980
173cm/63kg
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Naohiro Takahara
FW
June 4 1979
180cm/77kg
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Masashi Oguro
FW
May 4 1980
177cm/74kg
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Seiichiro Maki
FW
Aug 7 1980
184cm/77kg
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