New Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni said he was satisfied with the team’s performance after watching his new charges beat Paraguay to avenge their defeat in the first knockout stage of the World Cup.
Borussia Dortmund midfielder Shinji Kagawa netted the only goal in Japan’s 1-0 win against the South Americans, who defeated the Blue Samurai on penalties in their last-16 clash in South Africa.
“It’s the beginning of a new adventure. Please always stay with us,” the Italian coach told a sellout crowd of more than 65,000 people in Yokohama after Japan’s first game since the South African showpiece.
“The most impressive thing was that everybody worked really well as a team until the end. It was a very good game for the players and staff. I watched Japan’s games in the World Cup. They did what I expected them to do,” he added.
Zaccheroni, who signed a contract on Friday, watched the game from the stands as he has yet to obtain a working visa.
Japan’s caretaker coach Hiromi Hara said: “We couldn’t name the new coach when we called up this team, but we didn’t want to make an excuse.”
Kagawa, 21, said he was keyed up for the game.
“I was very disappointed that I couldn’t take part in the World Cup, so I was fired up for the game. Japan played defensively to reach the knockout round, but I wanted to show we can play aggressively,” he said.
But football commentator Sergio Echigo said the match showed that Japan were still weak in forward positions.
“If Japan want to play aggressive football, they need strong forwards. The first major task for the new coach will be to find capable forwards. It will be tough work,” he told sports daily Nikkan Sports.
Zaccheroni, who won the 1998-1999 Serie A title with AC Milan during a long coaching career in Italy, will also watch Tuesday’s friendly against Guatemala in Osaka from the stands.
He will take charge of friendlies in October against Argentina at home and South Korea away in the run-up to the Asian Cup in January.
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