2010 World Cup Squads – Japan and New Zealand
After a long hiatus, I’m back, just in time for the build up to this year’s FIFA World Cup. Already the build-up has started with provisional squads being released, the deadline for which is tomorrow, but two teams have already gone a step further and released final 23-man squads, just over 3 weeks before the deadline for this.
Takeshi Okada has named a Japanese squad with emphasis on all-round experience and pace up front, largely centring on home-based players with only 4 players not plying their trade in the country’s J-League. Yuji Nakazawa, a veteran of 9 years international service, is named as captain. The Yokohama F. Marinos defender has only played in one World Cup so far, though, a trifle compared to former Portsmouth keeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, named in the squad for his fourth World Cup. He is the only survivor from the 1998 team, the first Japanese side to qualify.
Whilst there are some impressive caps tallies in the squad, though, some of the bigger Japanese names of yesteryear are no longer present. The biggest of those, Hidetoshi Nakata, arguably Japan’s greatest ever player, is now retired from all football, quitting after the 2006 World Cup at the age of just 29. Former captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto, former Feyenoord winger Shinji Ono and striker Naohiro Takahara are also among those who are now absent from the national team, and so it is a national team of considerable international experience but patchy World Cup experience.
But the big names remain, Shunsuke Nakamura being one of the foremost. The former Celtic midfielder will be key to their hopes of advancing from a tough group. Former Arsenal midfielder Junichi Inamoto, a hero on home soil in 2002, is another famous face, whilst Keisuke Honda has been a regular in the Champions League for CSKA Moscow. Keiji Tamada, who scored a spectacular goal to put the team in the lead against Brazil for a short time 4 years ago, will lead the front line.
Japan will play 3 international friendlies before the tournament, playing South Korea on 24th May, England on 30th May and Ivory Coast on 4th June, before heading into their group matches against Cameroon, the Netherlands and Denmark. It will be a tough ask to get out of their group, especially lacking the stars of previous tournaments, but there’s enough opportunity for the talent they have to make new stars. Don’t rule them out.
Yuji Nakazawa (captain)
Marcus Tulio Tanaka
The 2010 World Cup’s minnows have also named their squad early, but unlike Japan, they will have no players with World Cup experience – the only man that has that is coach Ricki Herbert, who played for the All Whites when they last qualified in 1982. Their qualification route, whilst made easier by Australia’s absence from the OFC qualification, was far from easy, though – whilst they still only had largely amateur teams to negotiate in the OFC section, they still had to overcome a spirited Bahrain side over two legs in the AFC/OFC play-off. They have earned their place on the biggest stage, even if little is expected of them on it.
5 of the 23 play club football in England – captain Ryan Nelsen of Blackburn Rovers, Tommy Smith of Ipswich Town, Chris Killen of Middlesbrough, Chris Wood of West Bromwich Albion, and devout Christian Rory Fallon of Plymouth Argyle. In addition to this, Michael McGlinchey is a Motherwell player, uncapped Winston Reid plays for FC Midtjylland of Denmark, whilst Andy Boyens and Jeremy Christie play in the American MLS. The majority of the squad have experience of playing outside their home country, although most are now based there or Australia, including Leo Bertos, a veteran of the lower English leagues with Barnsley, Rochdale, Chester City and York City, but now at Wellington Phoenix and a lynchpin in the side.
But it is Nelsen and Killen that are the two big names in the squad. Nelsen has 5 years of Premiership experience in Lancashire, having signed from MLS side DC United in January 2005, and has spent 11 years in the international side. Killen has been a journeyman in English and Scottish football, joining Manchester City in 1999, and going on to play for Wrexham, Port Vale, Oldham Athletic, Hibernian, Celtic and Norwich City before arriving at his current destination. If New Zealand are to do well, their hopes rest on this pair.
They may be the rank outsiders this year, but the All Whites are in a similar position to Trinidad and Tobago from 4 years ago – a team of largely unknown faces on the international stage, many of whom have been playing well down the English league system. And yet T&T held Sweden to a 0-0 draw in their first game, before nearly doing the same against England in the following game. So do not brand them as mere amateurs playing at an ultra-professional level way beyond them, and predicting them to get thrashed in every game – plenty have made a similar mistake before. If anything, the motivation from being underdogs could spur them on to greater things, like the Caribbean counterparts 4 years ago.
New Zealand have 4 warm-up matches before the tournament. Following an Antipodean derby against Australia on 24th May at the MCG, they travel to Europe for games against Serbia and Slovenia on 29th May and 4th June respectively, before facing Chile in South Africa on 9th June, just under a week before their first World Cup game against Slovakia. Italy and Paraguay follow – to say it won’t be easy is an understatement of epic proportions.
Ryan Nelsen (captain)