Sunday, December 28, 2014

Costa Rica Greatest All-time 23 member team

Costa Rica 2014

Please also see my All-Time World Cup Team Index.

Costa Rica is the most successful national team in the region after USA and Mexico.   Before the 1990's, Los Ticos won three CONCACAFA Championships in 1963, 1969 and 1989. They also went to two Olympics in 1980 and 1984.  Then, in 1990, they shocked the world at the WC Finals in Italy.  They advanced to the 2nd round by beating Sweden and Scotland.  In 2014, Costa Rica made another strong run at the World Cup Finals.  They were grouped in the Group of Death with England, Uruguay and Italy.  They responded by beating both Italy and Uruguay before drawing England in the final and meaningless game.  They beat Greece in the round of 16 before losing to Holland in a penalty shootout during the quarterfinal.  The result was one of the best ever CONCACAFA finish at the WC Finals.

I also created an all-time CONCACAFA team that excluded players from the big three. 
World Cup 1990

GK: Luis Gabelo Conejo
Luis Gabelo Conejo was the hero of Los Ticos' World Cup run in 1990, where they reached the 2nd round.  He made the Team of the Tournament.  He had 29 caps. He played mainly for Ramonense and Albacete, during a 17-year professional career. He was a n idol with Albacete as the club reached La Liga for the first time ever in 1991

GK: Keylor Navas 
After starting out at Saprissa he moved to Albacete, and then to Levante in La Liga.  After a great performance With Levante, he won the La Liga Keeper of the Year award for 2014 with Levante.  Then, he led Costa Rica to the quarter-final of the WC in Brazil.  After the WC Finals, he earned a transfer to Real Madrid.  With Real Madrid, he won three Champions League title as their starting keeper.
Keylor Naves
GK: Erick Lonnis 
Erick Lonnis is the all-time leading cap leader for a keeper in Costa Rica.  He captained the national team at the Korea/Japan 2002.  He played moots his career with Deportivo Saprissa.  He was the captain for Saprissa during several seasons, where he won four national championships, as well as two CONCACAF Champions Cup in 1993 and 1995. He is an all-time great at there.

RB/CB: Michael Umaña
Michael Umaña has played for Los Ticos since 2004.  He went to the World Cup Finals in 2006 and 2014.  He was a part of the great defensive units at Brazil 2014 in which Los Ticos reached the quarter-final.  At the time of writing, he had over 100 caps. He played for many clubs all over the world, including stints in the USA, Iran, etc.

CB: Roger Flores
Roger Flores was the captain of the national team that advanced to the 2nd round of the Italia 1990.  He  played for the two most popular teams, Alajuelense and Saprissa.  He started out in Alajuela in the mid 80's, and was part of the team that won the CONCACAF Champions Cup in 1986. With Saprissa, he won another two CONCACAF Champions Cup.

CB: Luis Marín
Luis Marín earned 128 caps with Costa Rica.  He spent most of his career with Alajuelense, but he also had stints in Uruguay and Israel.  He was Israel Foreign Player of the Year in 2006-2007 while playing with Maccabi Netanya.  He played in all 3 games during both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups Finals.

CB: Gilberto Martinez
Capped 61 times, Gilberto Martinez played for Costa Rica at the World Cup Finals in 2002 and 2006.  After the World Cup Finals in 2002, he left Deportivo Saprissa and joined Brescia in Italy, where he played over 200 games.  He had brief loan spells with Roma and Lecce. He also played for Monza and ACD Nardo. He spent over 10 seasons playing in Italy.
Gilberto Martinez
CB:  Mario Cordero
Mario Cordero played for Costa Rica between 1950 and 1963.  He was considered a legend with Saprissa and one of Costa Rica's greatest defenders.  He was better known as Catato or Piernas de Oro.  Catato was the leader and captain of Deportivo Saprissa during the 50's and early 60's. He had one season in the Mexican league, with Atletico Marte.

CB: Giancarlo González
Giancarlo González had been capped over 50 times at the time of writing.  He was included in the BBC's team of the tournament for World Cup Finals in 2014. He went to Russia for the WC Finals two years later. He earned a big move to Palermo in Italy after the World Cup Finals.  In 2017, he joined Bologna. He previously played domestic football in Norway and the USA.  

CB: Óscar Duarte
Óscar Duarte was born in Nicaragua, but played for Costa Rica.  He was a part of the great defensive at WC 2014, where Costa Rica only gave up a single goal in group stage and reached the quarterfinal.  He also played in 2018.  He played for Deportivo Sarprissa.  In 2013, he moved to Club Brugge in Belgium and then, to Espanyol in 2016.

LB: Bryan Oviedo
At the time of writing, Bryan Oviedo plays for Sunderland in England.  He previously played in Norway and Denmark.  In 2012, he moved to Everton in England, spending nearly 5 seasons there. He missed the 2014 World Cup Finals through an injury, but went to Russia in 2018. He was selected for his national squad at the Copa América Centenario in 2016. 

DM:  Mauricio Solis
Mauricio Solis was an important player during the later 1990's and 2000's.  He was capped 110 times.  Solís was the second Costa Rican behind Luis Marín to reach 100 caps. He went to both World Cup Finals in 2002 and 2006.  He also played at the 1997 and 2001 Copa América.For his club career, he played in England, the MLS and Mexico.

CM: Celso Borges
His father represented Los Ticos at the World Cup in 1990.  He himself helped Costa Rica to reach the quarter-final at World Cup Finals in 2014.  He was one of the best players at the WC U-16 in 2005. He played professionally with Deportivo Sarprissa and AIK in Sweden. At the time of writing, he plays for Deprtivo La Coruna in Spain.
Celso Borges
AM:  Walter Centeno
Walter Centeno is the cap record holder for Costa Rica, having gained 137 cap.  He is considered one of the best players of his generation.  He played in the World Cup Finals of 2002 and 2006.  He went to three Copa America tournaments. For his club career, he played mainly for Saprissa, winning a CONCACAF Champions League. He also had a brief spell in Greece.

AM:  Oscar Ramírez
Nicknamed El Machillo (The Blonde).  He earned 75 caps for Costa Rica and went to the WC Finals  in 1990.  For his club career, he played for both Alajuelense and Saprissa.  With Alajuelense he won four national championships during the 1980s and early 1990s, as well as a CONCACAF Champions Cup in 1986.

Joel Campbell was signed by Arsenal in 2010, but used mainly on loan spells in three different countries: Lorient, Real Betis, Sporting CP and Villarreal.  At the time of writing, he has over 70 caps.  He was a key player during the WC Finals in 2014.

FW/RW: Hernán Medford
After three years at Saprissa he played in several different leagues worldwide, including Foggia Calcio), Dinamo Zagreb, Rapid Wien, Rayo Vallecano, and in the Mexican Primera Division, with Pachuca, León and Necaxa.  Pachuca decided to retire Medford's number 17 after he scored his 100th goal in his career. Medford  gained international flame at the WC in 1990 when Los Ticos reached the 2nd round.  
Hernán Medford

FW/RW: Bryan Ruiz
Bryan Ruiz was the captain of the national team that reached the quarter-final of the 2014 World Cup Finals.  At the time of writing, he has over 100 caps. He played with Alajuelense at home before moving abroad in 2006.  He played for Genk, Twente, Fulham, PSV and now, Sporting CP.  He is the CONCACAF Player of the Year: 2016

SS: Rolando Fonseca
Nicknamed El Principito, Fonseca earned 113 caps for his country. He is also the all-time leading scorer for Costa Rica.  He went to the WC Finals in 2002, but was not selected for 2006.  For club football, Fonseca played for Comunicaciones in Guatemala, Independiente Medellín and América de Cali in Colombia, Pachuca and Pachuca in Mexico, as well as having home spells with Saprissa, Alajuelense and Municipal Liberia.
Rolando Fonseca
FW: Ronald Gomez  
He was one of the greatest Costa Rican players.  He was capped 93 times.  He went to the WC in 2002 and 2006.  He played in 6 countries.  He started with Alajuelense before heading to play in Europe. He has played in 6 different countries: in Spain with Sporting Gijón and Hercules of Alicante, in Guatemala with Municipal,  in Greece with OFI Crete, in Kuwait with Al Qadsia, in Mexico with Irapuato and in Cyprus with APOEL.  He also played for Saprissa at home.

FW: Alejandro Morera Soto
He started his career with Alajuelense. He first joined Espanyol before joining Barcelona FC in 1933. He was a part of the legendary Barcelona of the 1930's.  He earned the nickname "El fenomeno costarricense" ("The Costa Rican phenomenon") in Barcelona. He scored over 60 goals for them.  He also played for Hercules and La Havre.  
Alejandro Morera Soto

FW: José Rafael Meza Ivancovich
He was one of the greatest players in Costa Rica during the 1940's.  He started his career with Club Sport Cartaginés.  he went to play for Moctezuma in Mexico, where he was the top league scoer in his first season.  He later joined Estudiantes de La Plata in Argenmtina and Atlante in Mexico, where he was a top player in the Mexican league. He also played in Colombia and Honduras. The Club Sport Cartaginés' stadium was named after him.

FW: Paulo Wanchope
Paulo Wanchope was probably the most successful Costa Rican player playing in Europe in the modern era. He played for Derby, West Ham. Manchester City, Malaga, FC Tokyo, Chicago Fire, etc. Internationally, he had 73 caps for Los Ticos between 1996 and 2008.  He also played in Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006. He is Costa Rica's second all-time leading scorer at the World Cup Finals.
Paulo Wanchope

Honorable Mention
Javier Jiménez, Álvaro Saborío, Christian Bolaños, Francisco “Chico” Hernández Ramírez, Joel Campbell, Errol Daniels, Evaristo Coronado, Juan Ulloa, Marco Ureña.

Squad Explanation
-- I selected 7 players(and a 8th player who missed the WC Final) from the World Cup 2014 team because no Costa Rican team have done more than that team.  They did not not only advanced to the quarterfinal.  They actually emerged from the Group of Death that included Italy, Uruguay and England.  They did with ease too.  They only failed at the quarterfinal by penalty kicks against Holland, the finalist in 2010 and the semifinalist in 2014.  
-- Keylor Navas helped Costa Rica to reach the quaterfinal of the 2014 WC Finals.  He also won two Champons League titles as the starting keeper.  He has achieved more than any other players from Costa Rica.  He is my number one keeper even through
Luis Gabelo Conejo is a strong candidate.
-- Joel Campbell was originally selected for his performance at the WC Finals as well as his career with Arsenal.  Unfortunately, his career is not well as what I envisioned after the WC Finals in 2014. For now, I kept him on the team.
-- I only have two players who played before the 1990's.  
-- Evaristo Coronado narrowly missed the cut. I took Ronald Gomez instead. Joel Campbell might make way for him.

Starting lineup
Formation 4-4-2
I started four players from the current generation and an old-timer.  Celso Borges  is the surprise starter.  I need a more balanced midfield.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

South Korea Greatest All-time team

World Cup 2002
Please also see my All-Time World Cup Team Index.

South Korea is a power in Asia since the 1950's.  They won two Asian Cup in 1956 and 1960.  They were  the second Asian country to participate in a World Cup Finals when they went to Switzerland in 1954.  However, they would not go to another WC Finals until 1986.  Led by Asia's greatest modern player Cha Bum Ku, South Korea only managed a draw with Bulgaria in 1986. However, they would go on to qualify for the 8 straight WC Finals.  In 2002, they beat Poland, Portugal, Italy and Spain en route to the semifinal of the WC Finals held at home.  This remained the best ever result by a country outside South America and Europe since the United States in the 1930.
World Cup 1986

GK:  Lee Woon-Jae 이운재
Lee Woon-Jae was a part of four World Cup Finals.  His best tournament was in 2002 where South Korea reached the semifinal and he was inspirational as he saved a penalty in the penalty shootout of the quarterfinal win vs Spain.  He is one of seven players from Asia to play in four different World Cups.   Chunnam Dragons in the K-League. 

GK: Choi In-young  최인영
Choi played played in South Korea for Seoul City (1981–1983) on an amateur basis, Kookmin Bank FC (1983) and Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i (1984–1996).  He earned 51 caps.  He was the starting goalkeeper at World Cup Finals in 1990 and 1994.   In 1994, he was unfortunately remembered for getting replaced by Lee Woon-Jae in the game against Germany.

GK: Kim Byung-ji 김병지
Throughout his career, Kim Byung-ji was locked up with the battle for number 1 with Lee Woon-Jaae. He went to the France 1998 and Korea/Japan 2002 as a backup.  He was selected as the best keepers in the K-League for a record 4 times.  He played over 700 games in the league. His club career lasted 24 years in the K-League.  He is the oldest ever player in the league.

RB: Kim Ho-kon 김호곤
Kim Ho-kon played Yonsei University, but most of his entire career with Seoul Trust Bank. He represented South Korea from 1971 to 1979. He was voted as the greatest rightback in Asian history by AFC.  He was also Korea Football Association Footballer of the Year in 1975.  He became a coach after retiring from playing.

CB:  Hong Myung-bo 홍명보
He is the all-time cap record holder for South Korea.  He played in 4 WC Finals.  In 2002, he captained South Korea to reach the WC semifinal, where he won the Bronze Ball.  He is probably the greatest defender in Asian history.  He played mainly for Pohang Steelers in the K League, Bellmare Hiratsuka and Kashiwa Reysol in Japan and, LA Galaxy in USA's Major League Soccer.
Hong Myung-bo
CB: Kim Ho 김호
Kim Ho was Korean Player of the Year in 1969.  He represented South Korea from 1965 to 1973. He played in the Asian Cup in 1972.  He was an amateur player with Cheil Industries FC and a founding member of Commercial Back of Korea FC.  As a coach, he led the Korean national at the 1994 World Cup Finals in the USA.

CB: Kim Jung-nam 김정남
Kim Jung-nam played for South Korea from 1962 to 1971.  He was named Korean Player of the Year in 1971. He competed for South Korea at the 1964 Summer Olympics.  He played for Yangzee FC and Korea Exchange Bank FC. His two brothers Kim Sung-nam and Kim Kang-nam also represented Korea.
CB: Chung Yong-hwan 정용환
Chung Yong-hwan played his entire career with Daewoo Royals, where he won the AFC Champions' League(formerly known as  Asian Club Championship) in 1986 and then, Afro-Asian Club Championship.  He represented Korea at the 1986 World Cup, 1990 World Cup, 1984 Asian Cup and 1988 Asian Cup.  He had 85 caps between 1983 and 1993.
Chung Yong-hwan
LB/CB: Kim Tae-young 김태영
Kim Tae-young played for South Korea at the World Cup Finals in 1998 and 2002. In 2002, he was a member of the defensive unit that came fourth at the 2002 World Cup Finals, co-hosted by South Korea and Japan.  He had 105 caps between 1992 and 2004.  For club football, he played his entire career for Chunnam Dragons.  

LB:  Lee Young-Pyo 이영표
Lee Young-Pyo enjoyed one of the most successful career for an Asian playing in Europe.  He was a starter with PSV Eindhoven and Tottenham Hotspurs.  Lee started his professional career at FC Seoul, then known as Anyang LG Cheetahs in the Korean K League 1. He also spent time in Saudi Arabia and the MLS. He played 127 times between 1999 and 2011 for South Korea.  
Lee Young-Pyo
CM: Yoo Sang-Chul 유상철
Yoo Sang-Chul was capped 124 times between 1994 and 2005.  He went to the World Cup Finals in 1998 and 2002.  He played for Ulan Hyundai FC in Korea.  Before the World Cup Finals in 1998, he was sold Yokohama F. Marinos in Japan. He also played briefly for Kashiwa Reysol.

DM: Kim Nam-Il  김남일
He was a relatively unknown player before the WC in 2002.  He made a name for himself at the Korea/Japan 2002 after Guus Hiddink transformed him into a defensive midfielder.  He also went to the WC Finals in 2006 and 2010.  For his club career, he had played in Holland, Russia and Japan. In Korea, he played for Chunnam Dragons and Suwon Bluewings. 

CM: Kim Joo Sung 김주성
From 1988 to 1990,  Kim Joo Sung won three straight Asian Player of the Year.  He was known for his long hair during his career, and was an Asian football icon in the early 1990's.  He played in three World Cup Finals.  For his club career, he played for Chosun University and Busan Daewoo Royalsat home.  Later, he spent two seasons with Vfl Bochum in Germany.
Kim Joo Sung
CM: Noh Jung Yoon 노정윤
He was the first Korean player to play in the J. League when he moved to Sanfrecce Hiroshima in 1992.  He almost spent his entire career playing in Japan, with a brief career in Holland.  He played for Sanfrecce Hiroshima, NAC Breda, Cerezo Osaka, and Avispa Fukuoka. At home, he played for Busan Icons and Ulsan Hyundai. He represented Korea at the USA 1994 and France 1998.

CM: Huh Jung-Moo 허정무
He was one of the first South Korean players to play in Europe.  He joined PSV Eindhoven in 1980 and stayed there until 1983.  At home, he played for Hyundai Horangi.  He was capped 84 times and played in the 1986 WC Finals.  
Huh Jung-Moo 

RW: Seo Jung-Won 서정원
Seo Jung-Won had 87 caps. He was a member of the South Korea at the 1994 World Cup, the 1990, 1994, 1998 Asian Games, and the 1998 FIFA World Cup.  He debuted in FC Seoul, then known as LG Cheethas in 1994 and also served as player at Suwon Samsung Bluewings in South Korea from 1998 to 2004.  In Austria, he played for Strasbourg, Ried and Austria Salzburg.

RW/LW: Park Ji-Sung 박지성
He is the most decorated Asian footballer in history, as the first Asian footballer to have won the Champions League trophy, the first Asian footballer to play in a Champions League Final, as well as the first Asian footballer to have won the Club World Cup.   He spent 7 seasons with Manchester United. He also played Kyoto Purple Sanga, PSV and QPR.  For the national team, he earned 100 caps and went to 4 World Cup Finals: 2002, 2006, and 2010.
Park Ji-Sung
RW/FW: Ko Jeong-woon 고정운
Capped 77 times, Ko Jeong-woon played for Korea at the 1994 WC Finals and the 1996 Asian Cup.  He was capped 77 times and was one of the best Korean players in the mid-1990's.  For club football, he played for Ilhwa Chunma/ Cheonan Ilhwa Chunma, Cerezo Osaka and Pohang Steelers.

LW: Son Heung-min 손흥민
Son finished his development at Hamburger SV, where he made his debut in the German Bundesliga in 2010. In 2013, he moved to Bayer Leverkusen for a club record €10 million, and played for the club in the Europa League and Champions League. Two years later, he signed for Tottenham for £22 million, becoming the most expensive Asian player in history. While at Tottenham, he became the top Asian goalscorer in Premier League history.
Son Heung-min 
FW: Park Lee-chun 박이천
He helped Korea to finish second at the 1972 Asian Cup and then, won the Korean Player of the Year in the same year.  He played for Kookmin Bank FC.  He turned professional in 1974 when he joined the Hong Kong league between 1976 and 1980, playing for Sea Bee and South China.

FW: Hwang Sun-Hong 황선홍
He was one of the most important Korean player between 1988 and 2002.  He played in 4 WC Finals.  For club football, he started with 2. Bundesliga outfit Wuppertaler SV during the season of 1992–93. He played in Pohang Steelers for six seasons and became a club legend. In 1998, he won Asian Club Championship with the Steelers. He also played in J League with Cerezo Osaka in 1999 with 24 goals in 25 matches, making him the top scorer in the J1 League charts.

FW: Choi Soon-ho 최순호 
Choi Soon-ho was a star in the 1980's.  He was capped 97 times.  He played in the 1986 and 1990 World Cup Finals.  He was the Asian Cup top-scorer in 1980, the youngest ever top-scorer at the age of 18.  He played mainly in Korea, but spent a season in France, playing for Rodez AF.
ST:  Cha Bum Kun 차범근
Cha Bum Kun is probably the greatest Asian player in the modern era.  He won two UEFA Cups, one each for Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen. he also played for Air Force in South Korea and SV Darmstadt 98. He was widely considered one of the best forwards in the Bundesliga throughout his career. He became the third-highest-paid footballer in Germany while playing there. For the national team, he had 135 caps and went to Mexico 1986.
Cha Bum Kun 
ST: Choi Yong-Soo 최용수
Choi Yong-Soo earned over 60 caps. He represented South Korea at the 1996 Summer Olympics, 1998 World Cup, and 2002 World Cup.  For his club career, he played in both Japan and Korea. He is considered a club legend at LG Cheetahs / Anyang LG Cheetahs(now called Seoul FC). From 2001 to 2005, he played in Japan for JEF United Ichihara, Kyoto Sanga FC and Júbilo Iwata.
Choi Yong-Soo
Honorable Mention
Park Kyung-hoon, Cha Du-ri, Kim Nam-il, Chung Hae-won and Ahn Jung-Hwan, Seol Ki-hyeon, Ki Sung-yueng, Cho Young-jeung, Kim Jae-han, Byun Ho-young.

Squad Explanation
-- I could not find much information on Korean players in the 1960's, where they dominated Asian football. So I do not think my team is not the best of South Korean football.  
-- Park Lee-chun's move to the professional league in Hong Kong was considered a big move in that era. Kim Jae-han and Byun Ho-young also went there.  All three players were South Korean Player of the Year.
-- Cho Young-jeung played in the NASL during the 1980's.
-- I also considered Chung Hae-won and Ahn Jung-Hwan. 
-- Ahn Jung Hwan was an icon of his time, but I went for the older players.  Choi Yong-Soo had contributed more over the years.  Of course, Cha Bum-Kun is the greatest Korea player of all-time.
-- Son Heung-min is still young, but he has done very well in Europe. Only Cha Bum Kun and Park Ji Sung have done better in Europe than him. 
-- Seol Ki-hyeon deserved a spot. He lost his space to Son Heung-min.
-- Ki Sung-yueng might a chance to be on this team. 

Starting lineup
Formation: 4-3-3

Friday, December 26, 2014

Japan Greatest All-time team

Japan 1998
Please also see my All-Time World Cup Team Index.

Before the 1990's, football was not a big sport in Japan.  In 1992, however, Japan won the Asian Cup and became a power in Asia.  With the formation of J-League in 1993, football gained ground in Japan.  In the same year, they almost qualified for the WC Finals in United States. However, they surrendered a 90th minute goal to Iraq that gave South Korea the final berth to the WC Finals.  The match was known as the "Agony of Doha".  Japan finally qualified for the WC in 1998 and went on to qualify for all of the following WC Finals at the time of writing.  In both 2002 and 2010, they advanced to the second round of the WC Finals.

If there were an All-Time World Cup, this would be 23 players I would bring to the tournament.

GK: Eiji Kawashima 川島 永嗣
Kawashima played in Japan for Omiya Ardija, Nagoya Grampus Eight and Kawasaki Frontale before joining Lierse S.K. in Belgium in 2010. He then played for another Belgian club, Standard Liège, from 2012 to 2015, and Dundee United in Scotland from 2015 to 2016. He played for Japan at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.
GK: Seigo Narazaki 楢﨑 正剛
He was named in 4 straight WC team, but he started only in 2002.  n 1995, he joined J. League side Yokohama Flügels. He became the No. 1 GK for the club in August of that season. His first professional appearance came on 16 August 1995 in a league match against Bellmare Hiratsuka. He contributed to the club winning the Emperor's Cup in 1998. When Flügels was merged with cross-town Yokohama Marinos in 1999, he was signed by Nagoya Grampus Eight. He was again a member of the Emperor's Cup winning side in 1999 but this time with Nagoya.

GK: Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi 川口 能活
Kawaguchi was the most talented Japanese goalkeeper.  He was named in 4 straight World Cup teams.  He was the starter for France 1998 and South Africa 2006.  He spent most of his career playing at home, but spent a brief stint with Portsmouth in the English First Division.  He had 116 caps.  

RB: Atsuto Uchida 内田 篤人
Atsuto Uchida played with Kashima Anthlers before joining Schalke 04 in 2010. He has been playing for Schalke 04 for the past 5 seasons.  He was on the Bundesliga team of the Year for the season 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.  He went to both World Cup Finals in 2010 and 2014. He also played Union Berlin before returning to Japan in 2018.
Atsuto Uchida 

RB/DM/CB: Takumi Horiike 堀池 巧
Takumi Horiike started his career with Yomiuri.  After the formation of J-League, he spent most of his career with Shimizu S-Pulse. He was capped 58 times and scored 2 goals for the Japanese national team between 1986 and 1995.  He missed out the World Cup Finals of 1994 after Japan failed to qualify at the last minute.

CB: Masami Ihara 井原 正巳
Masami Ihara was the Asian player of the Year in 1995.  He was at one point Japan's all-time leading appearance record holder with 122. He led Japan to its first ever World Cup Finals in 1998. He was a star in the J-League throughout the 1990's.  He spent most of his career with Yokohama Marinos.  Later, Ihara played for Jublio Iwata and Urawa Reds.
Masami Ihara 

CB: Maya Yoshida 吉田 麻也
Maya Yoshida started his career with Grampus Eight Nagoya.  Since 2012, he has played or Southampton.  He also played for VVV Velo in Holland. He was the captain of Japan's Olympic team in 2012.  He went to the World Cup Finals in 2014. He had 80 caps at the time of writing. 

CB: Yuji Nakazawa 中沢 佑二
Yuji Nakazawa went to Brazil as a youngster.  He returned to Japan, and played for Verdy Kawasaki and Yokohama Marinos.  He went to both World Cup Finals in 2006 and 2010.  He had 110 caps between 1999 and 2010. He was one of seven Japanese players to earn over 100 caps between 1999 and 2010.  His nickname is "Bomber" because of his distinctive hairstyle.

CB: Tsuneyasu Miyamoto 宮本 恒靖
Miyamoto played  71 times for Japan and led the Japanese national team in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups as well as the 2000 and 2004 Asian Cup.  He played for Gamba Osaka before moving to play for Red Bull Salzburg in Austria. Miyamoto also captained Gamba Osaka during their 2005 J1 League championship season.

 LB:  Yuto Nagatomo 長友 佑都
Yuto Nagatomo  started his career with FC Tokyo. He is known for his offensive skills.  He joined Cesena in 2010.  Since 2011, he was a starter with Inter Milan.  He can also play as a rightback.  In 20918, he joined Galatasaray in Turkey.  He collected over 100 caps for Japan. He played in the World Cup Finals in 2010 and 2014.  He won the Asian Cup in 2011.
Yuto Nagatomo 

LB: Satoshi Tsunami 都並 敏史
Tsunami was a product of Yomiuri (current Tokyo Verdy) youth system. He played for Japan Soccer League side Yomiuri Club, which was transformed to Verdy Kawasaki when J1 League was founded, between 1980 and 1996. Toward the end of his career, he played for Avispa Fukuoka (1996–1997) and Bellmare Hiratsuka (1997–1998).He was capped 80 times before 1982 and 1995.

CM: Ruy Ramos ラモス瑠偉
Ruy Ramos was one of the first foreign players in Japanese professional soccer, joining Yomiuri (later Verdy Kawasaki, now Tokyo Verdy) in 1977 at the age of 20. He was an important member of the Japanese national team during their unsuccessful 1994 World Cup qualification, eventually retiring from the game in 1998 at the age of 41.
Ruy Ramos

CM: Yasuhito Endō 遠藤 保仁
Yasuhito Endo was a hero at Gamba Osaka.  In 2011, he became the first J. League player to be named in the J. League Best Eleven 9 times. In 2009, he was named "Player of the Year" by the Asian Football Confederation. He is Japan's most capped players with 152 caps.  He went to the World Cup Finals in 2006, 2010 and 2014.

CM: Yasuhiko Okudera 奥寺 康彦
When soccer was still an amatuer sport in Japan, Okudera made his way to Germany.  He played with FC Klon and Werder Bremen in the 1980's. Okudera was the first Japanese footballer to play professionally in Europe, as well as being the first Asian football player to score in the European Cup, while playing for 1. FC Köln in the 1979 semi-final match against Nottingham Forest F.C. and made 32 appearances – scoring nine goals – with the Japanese national team.

AM: Kazushi Kimura 木村 和司
Kazushi Kimura was a star midfielder in the 1980's.  He was Japan's Player of the Year in 1983, 1984 and 1989.  He played for Nissan Motors before the foundation of J-League. The club became Yokohama F. Marinos in 1993, where he played three more seasons.  He earned 54 caps for the Japanese national team.

AM: Shunsuke Nakamura 中村 俊輔
Shunsuke Nakamura was a star player at Celtics.  He won the SPF Player of the year and SFWA Player of the Year in 2007.  Before that, Nakamura began his professional career with J1 League club Yokohama Marinos in 1997.  Later,  he played with Reggina in Serie A.  After he left Celtic, he played briefly for Espanyol. He played in three WC Finals, but he was not selected for the WC in 2002 at home. 
Shunsuke Nakamura 
AM:  Hidetoshi Nakata 中田 英寿
Nakata was the first Japanese player who reached stardom in Europe.  He scored 10 goals in his first season with Perugia.  He had a successful substitute role with Roma, but he never settled down after his first season.  He also played with Parma, Fiorentina and Bologna.  He later went to play in England with Bolton Wanderers. He picked up 77 caps.  He went to three World Cup Finals: 1998, 2002 and 2006.
Hidetoshi Nakata 

AM: Keisuke Honda 本田 圭佑
Honda is the current star of the Japanese national team.  He played domestic football in Holland and Russia before making a dream move to Serie A's AC Milan in 2014. Since 2017, he played in Mexico for C.F. Pachuca. Since 2008, he has been a regular member of the national team. He played in two World Cup Finals: 2010 and 2014. He also won the Asian Cup in 2011.

AM Shinji Kagawa 香川 真司
Kagawa began his professional career in his homeland with Cerezo Osaka before joining Borussia Dortmund in 2010. After two years with Dortmund, Kagawa signed for Manchester United on a four-year contract. Two years later, he returned to Dortmund, where again he was a star player. Since 2008, he has over 90 caps. He was a member of the 2014 WC team while controversially left off the 2010 team.
Shinji Kagawa 

FW: Ryuichi Sugiyama 杉山 隆一
Ryuichi Sugiyama played for Japan national team from 1961 to 1971.  He won the bronze medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. He also participated in the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and scored 2 goals.  He spent his entire career with Mitsubishi.  He was Japanese Football Player of the Year three times: 1964, 1969, 1973.

FW:  Kazuyoshi Miura 三浦 知良
Miura became the first Japanese footballer to play in Italy, joining Genoa for 1994-1995.  He was the Asian Player of the Year in 1993.  Despite being the best Japanese player in the 1990's, he never played in the WC Finals.  He was not selected for the 1998 WC in France. He had 89 caps. On 5 March 2017, Miura became the oldest ever player to feature in a professional match when he started in Yokohama's 1–1 draw against V-Varen Nagasaki. 
Kazuyoshi Miura 

ST: Masashi Nakayama 中山 雅史
In 1998, Masashi Nakayama scored the first goal for Japan in the history of the World Cup.  He spent most of his career with Jublio Iwata, a powerful team at the time. He won three J-League titles in 1997, 1999 and 2002.   He retired in December 2012 at age 45 after playing 3 seasons for Consadole Sapporo.  Since 2015, he is on the book of  Azul Claro Numazu in Japan Football League.

ST:  Kunishige Kamamoto  釜本 邦茂
Kunishige Kamamoto won the bronze medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics, finishing as the tournament's top scorer with seven goals. He is often considered to be the greatest Japanese football player of all-time.  He played his entire career with Yanmar Diesel(Cerezo Osaka), being the Japan Soccer League's top scorer 6 times with his club. He served as a member of the House of Councillors between 1995 and 2001.
Kunishige Kamamoto 

Honorable Mention
Naohiro Takahara 高原 直泰, Hisashi Kato 加藤 久, Naoki Soma 相馬 直樹, Alex 三都主, Makoto Hasebe 長谷部 誠, Shinji Okazaki岡崎 慎司 , Takuya Takagi 高木 琢也 .

Squad Explanation
-- Despite Japan's poor performance at the WC 2014 in Brazil, the current generation of Japanese players are among the best ever.  I included 5 players from the 2014 team.   
-- Before the 1990's, the standard of Japanese football was very good.  Kunishige Kamamoto and Yasuhiko Okudera were the two big names.  They were well-known outside Japan, Kazushi Kimura was very good midfielder.

Starting lineup
Formation 4-2-1-3
  • I prefer Kawashima over Kawaguchi, whom I believed to have too many his lapse.
  • Nakata started on the right, but I could easily give that position to Miura.