Alberto Zaccheroni has relied on several experienced players during his spell as Japan manager, with Yasuhito Endo being one of the Italian’s most trusted lieutenants. Before the competition the Gamba Osaka captain was, as always, in a relaxed mood…
Experience is vital at the World Cup and in Yasuhito Endo, Japan has one of the wisest heads at this year’s finals.
The veteran is the Samurai Blue’s most capped player, and his 144 appearances mean no other outfielder in Brazil has played as many times for their country.
This is the third time in a World Cup squad for Endo, who also traveled to Germany in 2006 and South Africa in 2010. While he didn’t get off the bench at the former tournament, he played in every game under Takeshi Okada four years ago, scoring with a trademark free kick in the 3-1 group stage win over Denmark.
The Gamba Osaka star was characteristically cool, calm, and collected prior to setting off for this year’s competition.
“At the moment I’m not personally feeling any pressure, but there is an element of it which comes with being chosen for the squad—we are lucky to have the chance to feel that,” he said after his club’s final J.League game at the end of May.
The midfielder was also involved when Japan took part in the Confederations Cup last summer, and thinks that experience will benefit the side.
“We went to Brazil once and played three games there in a similar span of time that we will have at the World Cup, so in terms of playing the games, it will certainly be a positive for us. The fact we know about the atmosphere in the stadiums and what Brazil is like as a country will definitely help us.”
Having experienced the highs of making the round of 16 in 2010 and lows of finishing bottom of the group in 2006, the 34-year-old knows that nothing can be taken for granted as Japan battles to progress from Group C with Cote d’Ivoire, Greece, and Colombia.
“All three teams are good, and I want to produce a result that everyone thinks we achieved because we are also a good side,” he said. “I have confidence, but we have to go there and do it. You don’t know what can occur but first and foremost we need to get through the group.
“First of all, up until the start of the tournament, I want to keep myself in good condition and get ready for the first game. I want to produce a good result in the opener and keep advancing from then on.
“I want to play more attacking than defensive—that’s more exciting for those watching, too, so I want to play aggressively and attacking to make more chances and score goals.”