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Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010

Zaccheroni wants players to speak up

Staff writer

New national team manager Alberto Zaccheroni has targeted a top-three finish at next January's Asian Cup, and intends to use a velvet glove rather than an iron fist to get there.

News photo
Man with a plan: New Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni listens to a question at a news conference on Tuesday in Tokyo. KYODO PHOTO

The 57-year-old Italian was unveiled as Takeshi Okada's successor on Tuesday, bringing down the curtain on an almost two-month search that the Japan Football Association has been accused of taking too long to complete.

Zaccheroni's appointment came too late to secure a visa to lead the team in friendlies against Paraguay on Saturday and Guatemala three days later, but the former AC Milan and Juventus manager already has his sights set on the Jan. 7-29 continental tournament in Qatar.

"The games we have coming up against Paraguay and Guatemala are very important and we need to start thinking about the Asian Cup straight away," he said. "Of course there is not much time, so as of yesterday the preparation has begun. It's not just the games that are important, but watching the team training and speaking to the players as well.

"We have to aim for the top three at the Asian Cup. Japan is a country that can hold its own on the world stage, so we have to show that in Asia as well."

Zaccheroni, who has spent his entire career managing club sides in his home country, insists he is no dictator and urged his new players to air their opinions.

"First of all you need to have good, open communication in the team," he said. "I'm not the type of manager who tells the players to shut up and listen. That's not my style. It's important to talk things through as you go along, and in this way you can create a good spirit in the team.

"Of course skill and technique are very important, but I'm not worried about the physical level of the players. The mentality and communication are the most important things."

Zaccheroni becomes the first Italian to take charge of Japan, and his appointment follows a growing trend among his countrymen taking their skills overseas.

"I have worked with clubs for the last 25 years and I have won Serie A, which I think is the hardest league to manage in," he said. "I worked for a long time in Italy and I wanted to broaden my experiences by taking charge of a national team. I believe that the Japan team has a lot of potential and it has come a long way in a short space of time.

"This is something that I really wanted to do, and something that I thrive on. Recently a lot of Italian managers have gone abroad, and it is a real challenge for me to become the first Italian to take charge of the Japan national team."

Zaccheroni liked what he saw of Japan at this summer's World Cup, with the commitment and team spirit instilled by his predecessor having particular resonance.

"The team, rather than individuals, left a big impression on me," he said. "It is a very compact team and everyone work s hard for each other. I have to thank Okada for doing such a good job and laying the backbone of the side.

"I like my teams to have balance. You need both an attacking base and a defensive base. If you don't play well, you don't get results. If you play well sometimes you don't get results, but generally you do."

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