The head coach of the Japan men's national team, Mikiyasu Tanaka, has selected a group of strong-serving players to prepare for the 2003 World League, confident that this will equip the team for a good performance in the Intercontinental Round. Tanaka, himself a legendary former player for the national side, has therefore called up big guns like Takahiro Yamamoto, who is also the best spiker of the team, blockers Nobuhiro Ito and Kota Yamamuro and setter Daisuke Usami who has also more than proved himself attacking from the serving position.
Japan, a former Volleyball powerhouse, did not perform well in the 2002 World League, scoring a solitary win and 11 defeats in the Intercontinental Round. They fortune changed however at the 2002 World Championship two months later in Argentina, when they bounced back to finish a creditable ninth. Yamamoto proved to be deadly in attack and his many spiking points helped propel the Japanese side through the tournament.
" Yamamoto experienced big international matches last year and is still improving his attacking ability. If he is consistent and effective as in the second round of the world championship, Japan will definitely have a better result than last year," said Tanaka.
" Last year we had to take a risk in various areas in order to find any hidden potential of the young players," the Japanese coach said, "but this year we will be fight for a victory. To win in every match prior to the World Cup in November is quite important in order to build up our confidence, " he added. Japan host the all important World Cup in November where the top three teams in each of the men's and women's tournaments directly qualify for the 2004 Olympic Games.
Apart from Yamamoto, Japan tends to lack firepower among its spikers, but this Year, Tanaka intends to field 24-year-old Akira Koshiya from Tore Club and Yasuhiro Nishida, 27, from Suntory on as many occasions as possible rather than two veteran outside hitters Masayuki Izumikawa and Shigeru Aoyama.
Japan faces World Championship bronze medallist France, Greece and Argentina in Pool D for the Intercontinental Round.