CLEARWATER, FLORIDA – Japan captain Makoto Hasebe on Tuesday warned his teammates not to take their positions for granted and said he welcomed the heated competition for places in the team ahead of the World Cup finals in Brazil.
“The competition for places will continue,” said Hasebe, who has been working his way back to fitness after knee surgery and was rested for Monday night’s 3-1 win against Costa Rica in a friendly in Tampa, Florida.
“The coach decides the team and nobody knows who will play or what position. I feel here that there is a really healthy rivalry for spots in the team,” he said.
Hasebe got 45 minutes under his belt in a 1-0 win against Cyprus on May 27 but felt sore after training on Sunday and coach Alberto Zaccheroni decided to leave him off the bench.
“I spoke with the coach and he told me not to overdo it,” said Hasebe.
Hasebe said he had been impressed with the way the team played after coming from a goal down against Costa Rica, but that the defense needed to tighten up.
“Yesterday everybody looked sharp both physically and mentally and looked over fatigue and back to normal,” he said. “The team played our style of quick, one-touch, two-touch soccer and we looked especially good going forward.
“At the back, though, we allowed (Costa Rica) to make decisive opportunities, to the point where we could have conceded three or four goals. We are doing really well going forward so that looks like the focus at the moment but I think we have to look at ourselves defensively again.”
“The teams we are going to play in the three group stage games (of the World Cup) are going to be stronger than the Cost Rica side we played last night,” he added, referring to Group C opponents Cote d’Ivoire, Greece and Colombia. “If you are going to allow chances to be made, then adjustments are needed in defense.”
Hasebe in January suffered a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee during a friendly against Steaua Bucharest at a training camp in Spain and underwent two operations on the knee.
The 30-year-old, who has played in 135 Bundesliga games over seven seasons since moving to Germany from Urawa Reds, finally returned to action last month with relegated Nuremberg, which he has since left to join Eintracht Frankfurt.
Asked about his move to Frankfurt, Hasebe said, “I could speak about it for an hour. The deal is done and I can go into the World Cup with a fresh feeling and that alone is enough for me.”