YOKOHAMA – National team manager Alberto Zaccheroni insists he will not remain slavishly wedded to a 3-4-3 formation despite declaring himself more than satisfied with its unveiling at the Kirin Cup this week.
Japan drew 0-0 with the Czech Republic on Tuesday night after playing out another stalemate with Peru six days earlier, with Zaccheroni taking the opportunity to implement the system with which he made his name with Udinese in Italy’s Serie A in the late 1990s.
But the 58-year-old brushed off suggestions that the success of this week’s experiment will make 3-4-3 Japan’s default setting, considering it merely another weapon in his team’s expanding armory.
“It’s a very suitable system for the Japanese players, but it’s only one system,” Zaccheroni said after Tuesday’s game in Yokohama. “We can’t play with it all the time — if we did that our opponents would study us and find us out, and our progress would stop there.
“We’ve used it in these two games, and now we can keep it for when we need it. I’m very satisfied with how the players understood it. In fact, I can’t believe how well they’ve taken to it in just a few days. It was only possible because of their extremely high ability, and I wouldn’t have been able to do this with another country and other players.”
Zaccheroni believes the characteristics of Japanese players makes them ideally suited to the formation, and pointed to Tuesday night’s performance as evidence.
“The advantage of the 3-4-3 system is that you get a free player in the vital area, and you get a free player on the wing,” he said. “Looking at the Japanese players, you can see that they have a lot of speed on the wings and also fast forwards.
“Tonight we went for the win and we created more chances than the Czech Republic. We had a good variety of combinations, and whatever the situation we were looking for the win. I’m very satisfied with the way the players performed. It was certainly better than I expected.”
Goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima was also pleased with the performance, but cautioned there is still work to be done before World Cup qualifying begins in September.
“It was good for us tonight but we really wanted to win, so it’s a bit of a disappointing result,” Kawashima said. “I think we played a little better than the last match, but we still have to try many things and we have to improve ourselves.
“We don’t have much time to prepare before the qualification matches for the World Cup, but in this short time we have to try a little bit more.”
Japan shared the Kirin Cup trophy with Peru and the Czechs after all three games in the round-robin tournament finished goalless, but Czech Republic goalkeeper Petr Cech was happy to have made the trip east.
“I’m pleased with my whole tournament,” said Cech, who pulled off a fantastic double save to deny Shinji Okazaki and Tadanari Lee in Tuesday’s game. “We are, together with the other two teams, the winners of the tournament, which is great for everybody and especially for the players that have come here for the first time with our team.
“I think they (Japan) played well as a whole unit, and you can see they use (Keisuke) Honda a lot on the ball because he is very clever and it’s very rare that he makes a mistake when he’s in possession. He always makes a good choice to keep the ball and I think he is a great player.
“But everybody else helped him to get the options to pass the ball. I think they work hard as a unit and rightly deserve to be the best team in Asia.”