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Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010

Hara encourages Japan to impress Zaccheroni

Staff writer

YOKOHAMA — National team caretaker Hiromi Hara has urged his players to seize their chance to impress incoming manager Alberto Zaccheroni in Saturday's friendly against Paraguay.

Zaccheroni's appointment on Monday came too late to secure a visa to lead out the team at Nissan Stadium, forcing Japan Football Association technical director Hara back into the dugout for the first time since leaving FC Tokyo in 2007.

Zaccheroni will be in the stands to watch Saturday's rematch with the team that beat Japan in the second round of the World Cup, and Hara reminded his players of the importance of making a good first impression.

"The manager will be coming tomorrow and he has been here to watch training," Hara said. "The players are motivated for it and they want to show what they can do, especially when it comes to attacking. Paraguay are better prepared than we are, and that's very rare for a team coming here. But I've told the players there are no excuses.

"It's a good chance for the players to show Zaccheroni what they can do. He can't work yet but we want to show him as much as we can in these games."

Zaccheroni, resplendent in a bright pink shirt, watched the players go through their paces on Friday, but Hara insists the Italian is keeping a low profile until his work begins.

"We had a meeting and introduced him to the players," Hara said. "He didn't really say anything to them — it was just to show them who they would be playing for after these two games. This time he's just watching."

Paraguay reached the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time by beating Japan on penalties after a cagey 0-0 draw in Pretoria. Manager Gerardo Martino is understandably keen to see a repeat performance.

"This is the start of a new stage for us, and we want to show our best both in terms of the way we play and the result," the Argentine-born Martino said. "We don't intend to change much from the last game. That was the second round of the World Cup and this is a friendly so the circumstances are different, but we want to play the same way."

Martino has brought a strong squad, with 10 members of his World Cup party present including strikers Roque Santa Cruz and Lucas Barrios. Both players excelled as Paraguay gave its best-ever World Cup performance in South Africa, but their manager insists no one will be allowed rest on their laurels.

"For a country like Paraguay to reach the last eight of the World Cup was a historic achievement, but we can't just stop there," he said. "We want to keep improving and reaching higher. This is the first step, and we want to do our best to get it off to a good start.

"When we came back from South Africa the people of Paraguay welcomed us as if we had won the World Cup. We played well and got good results, and although we lost to Spain we were satisfied with what we achieved."

Hara has lost captain Makoto Hasebe and midfield partner Yasuhito Endo to injury, but his choices on Saturday night will not simply be limited to the starting lineup. After three years away from management, the 51-year-old is pondering what to wear.

"Well if it's the national team I suppose I should wear a suit," he said. "It's hot, though, so I might not wear a tie."

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