Tokyo - Japan coach, Alberto Zaccheroni said Thursday his
squad can match Colombia, Ivory Coast and Greece in their World Cup group,
despite their underdog status in the global pecking order.
"I am confident we can go head-to-head with any of them
if we perform to the best of our abilities," the Italian tactician said as
he announced his squad for a friendly against New Zealand in Tokyo next
"About gaps with other teams in the group, I feel there
are not so big gaps. I'd rather say there are none."
Zaccheroni called up the usual suspects for the 23-man squad
including Keisuke Honda, who has yet to show a spark in AC Milan's midfield
after moving from CSKA Moscow in January, and Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa
who has mostly warmed the bench under David Moyes.
Inter Milan's Yuto Nagatomo is expected to play left back
for Japan as usual. But Schalke defender Atsuto Uchida and Nuremberg midfielder
Makoto Hasebe were dropped due to injuries.
The Blue Samurai, four-time Asian champions, will play
Cyprus at home on May 27 in their only other warm-up match before the World Cup
months of June and July.
Zaccheroni said New Zealand, who failed to qualify for
Brazil but impressed at South Africa 2010 with three draws at the group stage,
are "ideal opponents" at this point.
"They are physically strong and it will be an important
game in our preparations."
Japan's opponents in World Cup Group C are all ranked higher
in the FIFA table. Colombia stand fifth against Greece (12), Ivory Coast (23)
and Japan (50).
Zaccheroni believed Japan, known for their well organised
play that they frequently fail to convert into goals, may not feel there is
such a gap with group opponents "if we play our own brand of
Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima (Standard Liege/BEL), Shusaku
Nishikawa (Urawa Reds) Shuichi Gonda (FC Tokyo)
Defenders: Yuichi Komano (Jubilo Iwata) Yasuyuki Konno
(Gamba Osaka) Masahiko Inoha (Jubilo Iwata) Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan/ITA)
Masato Morishige (FC Tokyo) Maya Yoshida (Southampton/ENG) Hiroki Sakai
(Hannover/GER) Gotoku Sakai (Stuttgart/GER)
Midfielders: Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka) Toshihiro Aoyama
(Sanfrecce Hiroshima) Hajime Hosogai (Hertha Berlin/GER) Keisuke Honda (AC
Milan/ITA) Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United/ENG) Hiroshi Kiyotake
(Nuremberg/GER) Manabu Saito (Yokohama Marinos) Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka)
Forwards: Shinji Okazaki (Mainz/GER) Yoichiro Kakitani
(Cerezo Osaka) Masato Kudo (Kashiwa Reysol) Yuya Osako (TSV 1860 Munich/GER).
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