K. Nakata draws fans for soggy training camp


A record crowd braved typhoon-like conditions to watch Japan practice as Koji Nakata became the final player in the 23-man World Cup squad to join a training camp on Saturday.

News photo Thousands of fans watch as Japan players practice during the national team’s training session in Naraha on Saturday.

Around 13,000 fans packed the rain-lashed J-Village facilities in Naraha, north of Tokyo, to watch the morning and afternoon sessions in the final camp at home before Japan leaves for Germany next Friday.

Swiss-based Nakata trained separately with strikers Masashi Oguro and Naohiro Takahara and Brazilian-born winger Alessandro Santos. Goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi sat out practice with a sore Achilles’ tendon.

“The last World Cup was in Japan so I wasn’t too stressed,” said Nakata, who plays for Basel in Switzerland. “This time in Germany it will feel more like the real thing.”

Nakata’s mistake led to the goal that knocked Japan out of the 2002 World Cup as the Asian champion went down 1-0 to Turkey in Miyagi Prefecture in the second round.

“I am a more mature player than I was four years ago, and hopefully I will be able to make the most of the experiences I have had since then and will be on the pitch in Germany,” added the versatile former Kashima Antlers and Marseille man.

Japan will play host Germany and Malta in warmup matches before taking on Australia in Group F play in Kaiserslautern on June 12.