Zaccheroni to keep close eye on J-League talent in preparation for World Cup qualifiers

The Italian tactician has repeatedly pointed to the country's domestic league as a source of potential talent for Japan's national team, regularly attending matches in person
With his Europe-based players unavailable until the final round of World Cup qualifying which begins in early June, Alberto Zaccheroni intends to spend as much time as possible observing Japan's domestic league in the hopes of discovering potential talent.

The Italian could regularly be seen in J-League press boxes last year, observing players such as Hiroki Sakai and Mike Havenaar. It appears that this year he has no intention of changing his habits.

"The J-League is the national team's greatest resource," Zaccheroni said in a Monday press conference. "First of all I want to see how current members are growing as players.

"If they're not performing to my expectations, then there's always new players to look at regardless of whether they're veterans or rookies. J-League leads the world in giving so many youngsters the opportunity to play."

Zaccheroni praised last year's champions Kashiwa Reysol for their sense of stability, but also pointed out shortcomings in Japan's top flight.

"J-League is very technically advanced, but in terms of aggressiveness lags behind European and Middle Eastern leagues," the former Juventus coach pointed out.

"Players prefer to send assists instead of taking mid-range shots. Perhaps Brazilian football was too big an influence?"

While Zaccheroni praised the number of 'second-line' attackers coming out of Japan, another position remains cause for concern.

"We also don't have many younger players at centre-back," he elaborated. "Even the centre-backs on the national team both used to be midfielders."

With a revised schedule resulting in most J-League matches falling on Saturdays, the 58-year-old will have his work cut out for him if he hopes to observe the entire league.

"It's to the point that I wish I could split into nine people," Zaccheroni laughed. "Every match brings a new discovery."

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