Manager Naoki Soma has been dismissed by Kawasaki Frontale following their poor start to the season, reports the Asahi Shimbun. Soma, the former Japanese international full-back and Kawasaki Frontale player, was appointed to the position for the start of the 2011 season in which he led his team to a disappointing eleventh place. Current Japan Under-23 manager Takashi Sekizuka and his assistant Tsutomu Takahata were always going to prove a difficult act to follow given their five consecutive top five finishes, of which three were runners-up, but while he was given the opportunity to rectify the previous season’s failures a dismal return of just seven points from five games in the 2012 J.League campaign to date was insufficient to avoid dismissal. Assistant coach Tatsuya Mochizuki will take over immediately as manager on an interim basis while Frontale complete the search for Soma’s replacement. Soma becomes the second J.League Division 1 manager to be sacked this season following the firing of Jose Carlos Serrao at Gamba Osaka, and in a statement issued by the club he said “It is a shame I leave the team without having been able to fulfill my ambition …I felt like we were making steps in the right direction and I thought things would take off from here on.”
The Asahi Shimbun also noted the presence of Samurai Blue manager Alberto Zaccheroni at Wednesday’s Bundesliga match between FC Augsburg and VfB Stuttgart, in which Die Roten ran out 3-1 winners. Zaccheroni was there to run his eye over prospective team and squad members for June’s Group B 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification matches, with Japan due to play three matches in the space of only ten day, and saw midfielder Hajime Hosogai play the full 90 minutes for the losing side, while right-back Gotoku Sakai featured throughout for the victors, Shinji Okazaki once again an unused substitute for Stuttgart. All three players met the national team manager after the fixture.
Japan has risen to 30th place in the latest FIFA World Ranking, adds the Sankei Shimbun. The move up the table puts Japan one place ahead of AFC rivals South Korea, but comes too late to affect their seeding for the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
And finally, the Yomiuri Shimbun confirms that Keisuke Honda is expected to return from injury next week. The 25 year-old playmaker has been plagued by a knee injury he suffered in September 2011, and he has encountered repeated setbacks in finding a route back to full fitness, is in line to feature in the Moscow derby against Dinamo on 21 April.