PARIS – J. League top scorer Hisato Sato plans to let Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni know what the Italian has been missing during his two years in charge in the upcoming friendlies against France and Brazil.
“To be perfectly honest, given my age, I thought I might never get the call,” Sato said Wednesday, ahead of Friday’s game against France at the Stade de France. “But at the same time, I had to keep telling myself that nothing is impossible.”
Sato, who turned 30 in March, has received his first callup since February 2010 when Takeshi Okada had a look at him at the East Asian Championship — but only after Zaccheroni’s first choice Ryoichi Maeda pulled out with injury.
In his 4-2-3-1 system, Zaccheroni seeks someone who can hold up the ball or serve as a target in the single striker role, like Maeda or Vitesse Arnhem’s Mike Havenaar. Yet Sato, generously listed at 170 cm, is in the mold of a pure finisher who works the box well with outstanding predatory instincts.
Although he has been absent from the national team, Sato has been one of the most consistent scorers in Japan over the years, having netted at least 10 goals per season since 2004.
And he is banging them in again this year, with a J1-best 20 goals in 28 appearances for leaders Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Trailing Sato way back by eight goals are Maeda and Yohei Toyoda of Sagan Tosu.
Sato is on course to become just the fifth Japanese player to win the golden boot, joining an elite list including Maeda, Naohiro Takahara, Masashi Nakayama, Kazuyoshi Miura and Masahiro Fukuda.
His 2012 performances have been such that Sato has all but forced Zaccheroni to pick him, even though he is not the manager’s type. Sato will likely come off the bench in both matches — if he does at all — but will waste no time trying to impress the boss.
“Time is not on my side so I want to make an impression while I’m here,” he said. “I’m a striker and I need results, I need goals.”
Meanwhile, Keisuke Honda trained on the side for the third straight day with a bruised right calf and has become a question mark for the France game. Japan plays Brazil on Tuesday in Wroclaw, Poland.