May 29, 2007: And then there were three...
After selecting Shunsuke Nakamura and Naohiro Takahara for the Peru game, Japan coach Ivica Osim has expanded his band of European exiles to three by calling up Koji Nakata for the Kirin Cup.
Many observers, myself included, will be glad to see Koji back in the fold, as his qualities are many.
First, he is versatile, and can play a number of positions in defence and midfield.
Second, he has a good footballing brain, allied with keen concentration, and Osim needs thinkers as well as movers in his team.
Third, he has a lot of experience at this level, having featured in two World Cup squads.
Fourth, he has stuck with it in Europe after a tumultuous time in France, and has found his home in Basel. This shows a strong character and ambition, when it would have been easy to return to the J.League.
All in all, then, Nakata still has a lot to offer the national team, and Osim will be able to capitalise on his versatility, even during a game if necessary.
Koji is listed as a defender in Osim's squad, along with one of my favourite players at the moment, Mizumoto.
Despite JEF United's wretched season, Mizumoto has emerged as a bright prospect for the future. Injuries to Stoyanov and Djordjevic have thrust Mizumoto into the spotlight, and he has emerged as a natural leader.
I wrote recently that Mizumoto played with an attitude, and it was good to see him standing up for himself and giving Juninho as good as he got in some verbal exchanges during the recent Frontale-JEF game. This Kirin Cup experience can only help his career, like those of his fellow Olympic team members.
There is a wealth of talent in this Kirin Cup collection, and the toughest job for Osim will be finding the right combinations and deciding who to leave out, rather than who to play.
The return of Koji Nakata gives him even more options, especially with Abe and Konno in there, too.