| Two-time defending champion Japan plays the host to the third IFAF World Championship at Kawasaki this year. Japan is the only country to take part in all the three World Championships and is currently having a five-game winning streak without a loss.
``We’ve organized the best ever national team,’’ Japan head coach Toshiaki Abe said when Japan announced the final 45-man national squad on Saturday, June 23. ``It’s gonna be a very tough tournament, but we’re proud of playing under the `Rising Sun’ national flag.’’
``We’ve gotten through the several qualifying stages to select the 45 men, so I have no concerns with our playing level’’ said Japan captain and defensive end Yasuo Wakisaka, one of the only two Japanese players that make their appearance in all the three World Championships. The other player is cornerback Masahiro Nomura. ``We want to show people in this country how good Japan’s football is,’’ Wakisaka added.
Japan organized the national team with the ``speed-over-size’’ philosophy and it applies most to receivers. Passing attack should be the heart and soul of Japanese offense and the receivers are expected to play the major roles in Japan’s challenge to defend the world title.
Japan selected two tight ends and eight wide receivers on the roster. Tight ends Yasuhiro Hashizume and Takuro Mayuzumi both have great hands and are strong in the underneath zones. Wide receiver Akihito Amaya has the decent experience in the professional football, playing for the Rhein Fire of the NFL Europa in the 2001-02 seasons. In 2002, Amaya participated in the Washington Redskins summer camp as a national player.
Two collegiate receivers made the roster Kazuya Togura of Hosei University and Naoki Maeda of Ritsumeikan University. Neither Togura (173 cm, 76kg) or N. Maeda (175cm, 80 kg) has an ideal size as a receiver, the two have quickness and the ability of run after catch.
Japan sends three quarterbacks and all of them have the chance to play in the tournament. Veteran Yuichi Tomizawa, the starter of the second World Championship in 2003 in Germany, has strong arm and the pin-point control. Tomizawa showed good timing with his receivers and completed 67.8 % of his passes during the four warm-up games he played this spring.
Tetsuo Takata is a very athletic signal-caller that has the balance on the running and passing attack while Kentaro Namiki runs well and has the playing experience in the NFL Europa.
On defense, pass rush by defensive line will be the key. Wakisaka starts off the ball quickly and gives the pressure to quarterbacks off the edge. Masayoshi Yamanaka penetrates the offensive backfield and records some loss tackles. Powerful Takayuki Yoneda anchors the defensive line with the 183-cm, 123-kg frame.
Abe chose eight defensive backs to the roster, saying ``Passing defense is very important in this tournament.’’ Defensive backs are led by former Cologne Centurion Tadanari Sano and ex-AFL player Yuichi Watanabe. They are both ball-hawkers and good at run support. Nomura and Yasumasa Tamanoi have the experience in the past World Championships.
Japan plays France in the tournament-opener on Saturday, July 7 then takes on Sweden on Thursday, July 12 in Pool 1.