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Japan grappling with Zaccheroni’s strategy

by Gus Fielding

Kyodo

Keisuke Honda says Japan has nothing to lose from continuing to test an unfamiliar 3-4-3 formation, but the CSKA Moscow star fears it may take more than two friendlies before World Cup qualifying begins for the team to properly adjust to the new shape.

“We are doing something new and you just have to try and be positive,” Honda said ahead of Tuesday’s friendly against the Czech Republic in Yokohama.

“We are in a preparation period so we are trying this (new system) out, but is going to take time.”

Japan struggled to adapt with three at the back in last week’s 0-0 draw with Peru and coach Alberto Zaccheroni reverted to a 4-3-2-1 shape for the second half of the Kirin Cup opener in Niigata.

Despite murmurs of discontent within the squad, Zaccheroni looks set to stick with 3-4-3 against the Czechs, who also drew 0-0 with Peru, in the final game of the three-nation Kirin Cup tournament.

“We have to drill it in until each and every player knows his role and the role of those around him,” Zaccheroni said.

After the match against the Czechs, Japan has just one more friendly lined up against archrival South Korea in August before beginning its Asian qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil in September.

With Zaccheroni giving each player detailed instructions, recent training sessions have been stop-start affairs and squad members have grumbled that it will take too long to become accustomed to the new system.

“It’s a bit confusing to be honest,” said Kunimitsu Sekiguchi. “I want to give the best I can, but I feel it’s difficult.”

But Yasuhito Endo, who like Honda had an outstanding World Cup in South Africa last summer, believes Japan will eventually reap the benefits of change, while Makoto Hasebe was also optimistic.

“I think trying something new until the World Cup qualifiers start is good for the team and will help us develop,” said Endo, who looks set to start alongside World Cup captain Hasebe against the Czechs.

Hasebe said, “Obviously we want to win. We know it is not going to be easy but I think we are improving.

“Our tactics depend on how our opponents set up at the back but to move to the next level we have to think for ourselves.”