Alberto Zaccheroni chose the Osaka Derby between Gamba Osaka and Cerezo Osaka as first J.League game to observe this season, and took the opportunity to urge young talent in Japan to force themselves into the national setup. The Japan coach has recently returned to his adopted nation after visiting Italy, following his January victory in the Asian Cup.
His assistant, Hiromi Hara was seen before the match cheering up potential national team prospects in both teams, especially the young ones. His words echoed those of 'Zac', who invited young J.Leaguers to “stand up” in a press conference held in Tokyo on March 4.
“I would like to see young players in each [J.League] club to earn starting spots and show how good they are. There is nothing like playing in order to gain experience and improve,” said the 57 year-old.
Zaccheroni also revealed that at a recent meeting among coaches in Italy he had a chance to talk at length with former Italy and Juventus manager Marcello Lippi about the growth of Japanese soccer.
The Italian press in that occasion had reported how Zaccheroni seemed enthusiastic about the Japanese system, that allows youngsters to play at a high level while studying in high school or university- an opportunity that does not exist in Italy.
Openness toward young talent was reasserted in Tokyo: “Age doesn’t matter, the door to the [Japan squad] is open to everybody,” concludes Zaccheroni, who will next attend Kashima Antlers-Omiya Ardija.
The Samurai Blue’s next two games are friendlies to be played in Shizuoka on March 25 vs Montenegro and on March 29 in Tokyo, vs New Zealand.