Zaccheroni starts with observation role for Japan
For new Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni, Friday’s friendly
against Paraguay will give him a glimpse of what he’s got to work
with at the Asian Cup.
Unfortunately for the former AC Milan and Juventus coach, he’ll
have to watch from a distance while Japan Football Association
technical director Hiromi Hara takes charge as an interim manager
for the Paraguay match and another friendly against Guatemala in
Osaka three days later.
The 57-year-old Zaccheroni was appointed as head coach Monday on
a two-year deal to take over from Takeshi Okada, but is yet to
receive a work permit for Japan. So, the first Italian to coach
Japan faces some hurdles in his first major task of preparing a
squad for Asian Cup group matches against Saudi Arabia, Syria and
Jordan in January.
Japan, the three-time Asian Cup champion, reached the second
round of the World Cup in South Africa before losing in a penalty
shootout to Paraguay. Just nine weeks later, the teams meet again
”We must finish in the top three of the Asian Cup,” Zaccheroni
told reporters after his appointment this week, already dismissing
thoughts of World Cup revenge. ”Japan certainly have the strength
to do it, and we must do it.”
His aim after that is a quarterfinal place at the 2014 World
Japan was fourth at the 2007 Asian Cup, missing out on an
automatic qualifying spot for the 2011 edition. Iraq was a surprise
winner, beating Saudi Arabia in the final, while South Korea was
The South Koreans have lined up a friendly in Seoul next week
against Iran, which plays China three days earlier.
In the last meeting, in June 2009, a late goal from Manchester
United’s Park Ji-sung ended Iran’s dreams of qualification for the
2010 World Cup.
Park is one of 14 overseas players summoned for the clash at the
same Seoul World Cup Stadium to take on Iran, with young Ajax
striker Seo Hyuk-jun receiving a first call-up from new coach Cho
There will be a familiar figure preparing the opposition squad
in the shape of Iran’s Afshin Ghotbi. Ghotbi has been Iran’s head
coach since March 2009, though made his name with spells as South
Korea assistant at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.
The two Asian powerhouses are hoping to end continental
droughts. South Korea lifted the last of its two Asian Cup titles
in 1960, while Iran picked up its third trophy in 1976.
”My aim is for Iran to make it to the final after 35 years and
become champions. We will do our best to make 75 million Iranians
happy,” Ghotbi said. Iran is grouped with Kuwait, Uzbekistan and
hosts Qatar at the Asian Cup.
Australia, preparing for only its second Asian Cup, will play
Switzerland at St. Gall on Friday, a match between two teams that
fell at the first hurdle in South Africa.
New coach Holger Osieck is ready for his first match since his
appointment in August.
His squad has not been as fresh as some would like with 16 out
of the 23 who went to South Africa making the 20-man squad.
Osieck, who was assistant coach to Franz Beckenbauer with the
West Germany team which won the 1990 World Cup, is taking things
slowly as he prepares for the continental tournament and games with
South Korea, India and Bahrain.
”You can’t make radical changes with players you don’t even
know,” he told the Australian media. ”I saw the Socceroos live at
the World Cup and I want to give those players the first
”I want to go there (Asian Cup) with a team that has the
definite option to be successful and probably finish on top.
”If you have players with the experience of two World Cups, who
play in decent competitions, then the likelihood of achieving that
is better than if you have 19- and 20-year-old boys.”
Osieck has quickly been confronted with the realities of
international football with the withdrawals of Harry Kewell, Josh
Kennedy and Michael Beauchamp due to injury for the next
Four days after the Switzerland match, Australia travels to
Krakow to take on Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland.
Hosts of the 2011 Asian Cup, Qatar take on Bahrain and Oman in
other friendlies this week. On Sept. 8 in New Delhi, two English
coaches go head-to-head.
Former England and Manchester United captain Bryan Robson will
guide Thailand against India, led by ex-Fulham midfielder Bob
Houghton, former coach of China and Uzbekistan, is preparing
India for its first appearance at the Asian Cup since 1984.