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Hanyu for Fujita would have made more sense

11 Dec 2003(Thu)

I am sure Zico is learning a lot about his J.League players during the East Asian Football Championship.

After all, he had no choice but to pick them and test them as the dates of the tournament fall outside the dates set aside for international matches by FIFA.

This meant he could not bring back his players from Europe, and I think that has been a good thing for Zico.

In the recent past, when Japan have played many friendlies at home, Zico has always tried to put out his strongest team.

Not only has this angered some of the clubs, especially Hamburg SV, but it's also given the players a hectic schedule.

Life is already tough enough for them in Europe just trying to get in the team and then holding on to their position, without the extra burden of being absent for a few days.

On top of this, Zico's policy has deprived the J.League players a taste of international football, which is played at a different rhythm and has different pressures to club football.

So, in this respect, it has been beneficial for Zico to pick the J.League players and watch them closely at this level. He needs a squad, not just a team, as injuries and suspensions will affect his selection in the World Cup qualifying campaign starting February.

As we prepare for the Japan-Korea showdown at International Stadium Yokohama on Wednesday night, Toshiya Fujita must be wondering if it was worth coming back all the way from Holland.

I really don't know why Zico selected him, because it looks like he might not even get the chance to play.

After Tuesday's training session, Zico said he planned to start the game with Ogasawara, who didn't train Tuesday because of a hamstring injury and other niggling ailments.

In his absence from training, Oku was playing with the first team, and Fujita was with the rest of the reserves.

Zico said Fujita may have to stay on the bench the whole game, or he may get a chance during the match.

Anyway, Zico said he liked Fujita's personality and spirit, so the player would be of value off the pitch if not on it.

If I had been Zico--and don't we all think we could be a good national coach!--I would have left all the players in Europe for this tournament, and concentrated only on the J.League.

My choice would have been JEF United's Hanyu. He would have been a good backup for Ogasawara and Oku, and the experience would have been good for him.

Hanyu has just finished his second full season as a professional out of university, and I think he is a very clever and, as Troussier would say, a very interesting player.

Maybe Fujita will play after all against Korea, but I still think it's a missed chance by Zico to expand his squad and look for fresh talent.

ends

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