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Japan Football: Zaccheroni, Samurai Blue, and general J chatter
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Japan vs. Azerbaijan

Zaccheroni's request for a practice game in preparation for the start of the WCQualifying round was answered with a last-minute Friendly scheduled vs Azerbaijan on May 23. After sinking against North Korea and Uzbekistan in the previous Qualifying round, Zaccheroni has been particularly concerned with the condition of the Europe-based players -- who make up 90% of his starting squad and more than 50% of his roster.

The occasion marked the return of Keisuke Honda to the full squad after 8 months absence in and out of injury. Three players also debuted in this game -- 25-yr old FC Tokyo midfielder, Hideto Takahashi; the 22-year old sideback now top-listed by clubs around the world, Hiroyuki Sakai; and the 19 year old Arsene Wenger discovery and already-superadored Ryo Miyaichi.

Highlights Japan 2-0 Azerbaijan (Friendly)
First Half
Second Half

So, what have the squad been doing since? Domestic players were returned to their respective clubs for league duties, and the 12 Europe-based players remained with Zaccheroni after a day off to work on their conditioning.

Yesterday, the 3rd day of camp, the European players had a practice match against Urawa club youth teams. With Yoshida delayed with Venlo duties, Hasebe and Hosogai filled in as a centerback with Honda in defensive midfield. Though no one believes this in any way reflects what Zac has in store for Oman, it still would have been fun to see.

Domestic players also returned to Zac yesterday, spending the day on light exercise and avoiding any full-on practice.

News Video of Japan Squad on 3rd Day of Camp

Remember, you can also see raw footage of National Team camp training at >>Samurai Blue TV (the official JFA portal for great photos and videos of training, interviews). They've updated with footage from yesterday's session -- you can see Zaccheroni playfully shoving Kagawa off the ball, and the other players as they go through their exercises. Click on the thumbnails listed along with dates to launch video.

Did you know?

Since arriving in Japan, Alberto Zaccheroni has continued to show a great sensitivity towards the country and supporters. His style has particularly suited Japanese culture, and his affinity for Japanese food and his interest in facets of the country outside of football has won him a lot of appreciation.

One thing this Japan National Team coach has done that others have not is to publish "letters" regularly throughout the year. These are presented as the "Il Mio Giappone" series, and it gives Zaccheroni a way to communicate directly with interested supporters. In them, he introduces a wide variety of topics, from how Italians spend their summers to how he appreciates the way Japanese people give him his privacy when he rides the subway, to his thoughts when visiting his players at their respective clubs around Europe, to what he witnessed while viewing J-league games. It is insightful and very interesting.

Only the Japanese translation is available right now, but if you can read Japanese a little, I recommend looking through the archived articles. >>Il Mio Giappone
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