Zaccheroni casts wide net for East Asian Cup


National team coach Alberto Zaccheroni on Monday handed first callups to in-form strikers Yoichiro Kakitani of Cerezo Osaka and Sagan Tosu’s Yohei Toyoda in naming a 23-man squad for the upcoming East Asian Cup in South Korea.

Toyoda, who was part of Japan’s 2008 Beijing Olympic squad and scored in a group-stage match against Nigeria, has scored 11 goals this season and is the third-top scorer behind Hisato Sato and Yoshito Okubo.

Kakitani has also been in red-hot form, netting 10 times in 16 games for Cerezo.

With the likes of Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa and captain Makoto Hasebe of Wolfsburg currently in the European offseason, the Italian tactician has named a squad made up of players from the domestic J. League to take to the July 20-28 tournament.

Along with Kakitani and Toyoda, Manabu Saito, Hotaru Yamaguchi, Kazuhiko Chiba and Yojiro Takahagi and Takahiro Ogihara were also called up for the first time for senior national team duty.

“Our first goal was to qualify for the World Cup finals (next year in Brazil) and we did that convincingly. From this point onward we need to prepare as best we can for the World Cup and that starts now,” said Zaccheroni.

Japan opens against China on Sunday and then faces Australia and South Korea.

Japan was eliminated from last month’s Confederations Cup after three defeats in the first round to Brazil, which won the tournament, Italy and Mexico.