Zaccheroni wants new Japan players to be quick learners


Japan manager Alberto Zaccheroni urged his new recruits to learn the way of the Blue Samurai during the July 20-28 East Asian Cup on Friday.

“I hope they pick up on how we do things in the national team as soon as they can,” Zaccheroni said, ahead of the four-way tournament starting Saturday with hosts South Korea taking on Australia. Japan launch their campaign on Sunday against China.

“We’ll be up against three different types of teams. It’s a fantastic competition, and we need to make the most of it,” he said.

With the East Asian Cup being held outside the international calendar, Zaccheroni has called up 10 players for their first time — including Cerezo Osaka’s highly heralded striker Yoichiro Kakitani.

The 23-year-old Kakitani, though, admitted he was lost during the team’s first training session on Friday as Zaccheroni drilled the fundamentals of his established 4-5-1 into a largely inexperienced crew.

Two-time World Cup full-back Yuichi Komano, normally a backup in Zaccheroni’s full-strength squad, will captain the Asian champions at the tournament.

“I didn’t know left from right,” Kakitani said. “I tried to listen to every word (Zaccheroni) said.”

Nadeshiko Japan will kick off the women’s competition on Saturday against China, with North and South Korea squaring off Sunday.