SAPPORO – Japan’s players began preparing for Wednesday’s friendly with South Korea in a somber mood Monday following the tragic and untimely death last week of former national team defender Naoki Matsuda.
Alberto Zaccheroni’s squad gathered around the center circle under blazing sunshine and blue skies at Atsubetsu stadium before training to observe a moment’s silence for 2002 World Cup defender Matsuda, who passed away aged 34 following a heart attack.
“I’m sure there were so many things he still wanted to achieve. Everyone is devastated,” CSKA Moscow star Keisuke Honda said after the 90 minute session.
“All of us here watched the (2002) World Cup in Japan and South Korea, and have been influenced by the way he played. In fact it is because of how well Matsuda played that we are all here today. I’m so grateful for that.”