2014 FIFA World Cup
Previous Clubs/Countries: Cesenatico,Riccione, Boca San Lazzaro, Bracca Lugo, Venezia, Bologna, Cosenza, Udinese, Milan, Lazio, Internazionale, Torino, Juventus
Honours: Serie A, 1999; AFC Asian Cup, 2011; EAFF East Asian Cup, 2013
Japan actually wanted a Spanish coach after the 2010 World Cup though it turned out that Italian was a perfectly acceptable substitute and Alberto Zaccheroni is one of the most Italian there is. The 60 year-old's resume reads like a who's who of Serie A -- Juventus, Lazio, Torino, Venezia, Bologna and both Milan giants to name a few.
Injury ended an unremarkable playing career at the age of 30 but that only gave Zaccheroni more time to get his teeth into coaching. He really did climb up the ladder rung by rung and by the time he started to attract attention both inside and outside of the peninsula with Udinese, he was already in his eighth job. Helped by the goals of Oliver Bierhoff, Zaccheroni turned a yo-yo club into a force to be reckoned with, taking the team to third in the league in 1998 and into Europe.
When the call came from Milan, the boss packed his bags, along with Bierhoff, and headed to the San Siro. The first season saw a first league title for Zaccheroni and the first in three years for the club. Failure to repeat that success and failure to do anything in the Champions League meant the sack in 2001 and he then spent an indifferent season with Lazio before moving back to Milan but this time, the blue-and-black half. A season ended in fourth and then another dismissal in 2004.
He was out of work until 2006 when he headed to Torino, again for a short-lived and forgettable spell. After being shown the door in 2007, he got an emergency summons from Juventus in January 2010 and ended the season in seventh.
Then to Japan, the job that will become his longest ever as a coach before the 2014 World Cup kicks off. Zaccheroni has never stayed in one place too long in his homeland but life in the Land of the Rising Sun seems to suit.
While there was a desire for a foreign coach to succeed Takashi Okada after the 2010 World Cup, Zaccheroni was something of a surprise, a man who had never strayed outside Italy. He arrived in Tokyo to tell reporters, some of whom said that he just didn't look like a football coach, to "call me Zac." The call to East Asia came in the summer of 2010 and within five months, Zaccheroni has delivered the 2011 Asian Cup, building on the Samurai Blue's performance in South Africa when they came within a penalty shootout of reaching the last eight.
There have been no radical changes. His much-loved 4-3-3 has become a 4-2-3-1 and with that formation, Japan strolled through qualification to the 2014 World Cup, playing good football along the way and the team became the first to qualify-- for the third successive time.
Despite some issues with the team, the slightly porous defence for one, there is real hope that Japan can really show what they are made of in Brazil. Expectations and pressure is rising.
Strengths: Experienced, tactically sound and has handled pressure of being coach of some of the biggest clubs in the world.
Weaknesses: Has no international experience as player or coach. Perhaps overly fond of his systems and favourite players, and has yet to solve defensive issues.
Career High: Leading Milan to the Serie A title in 1999, though Japan's Asian Cup triumph ranks highly too.
Career Low: A 5-1 derby thrashing while coach of Lazio at the hands of bitter rivals Roma.
Tactics: Loves his 4-3-3 though is now into 4-2-3-1 with the occasional 3-4-3 against weaker opposition. Zaccheroni likes his full-backs to get forward as much as possible while encouraging his team to pass through the middle.
Quote: "I came to Japan to bring them to the World Cup... I'm relieved that I achieved it. We are going to improve further and surprise the world." Zaccheroni outlines his vision for Japan.
Trivia: Visa issues meant that he had to watch his first two games as coach of the Japan national team from the stands.
Words: John Duerden