The captain of the Japanese national team, defensive midfielder Makoto Hasebe has also gone on to become one of the faces of his country’s football.
Hasebe was first signed by Urawa Red Diamonds in 2002 soon after he graduated from high school. Capable of playing both attacking and defensive midfield roles, he quickly established himself in the J.League, contributing to Urawa picking up domestic silverware and also winning the AFC Champions League in 2007. Despite his impressive resume, he missed out on selection for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™.
Come 2008, Hasebe was signed up by big-spending German club Wolfsburg. Although primarily used as a defensive midfielder, Hasebe was also deployed in the club’s backline and as a wide midfielder.
In his second season in Germany, Wolfsburg won the Bundesliga for the first time, with Hasebe’s growing achievements becoming impossible to ignore for Samurai Blue coach Takeshi Okada. He subsequently became a regular in the national side and forged a formidable midfield combination with Yasuhito Endo.
Named captain ahead of South Africa 2010, the midfield general guided his team through a tough group containing the Netherlands, Denmark and Cameroon. It was at this tournament that Hasebe genuinely became one of the standard-bearers of the Japan squad.
Hasebe retained the armband under new coach Alberto Zaccheroni and played in every game at the AFC Asian Cup 2011, which Japan won after battling through several tight encounters.
Although considered a creative playmaker during his early days at Urawa, the 29-year-old is now a first-choice selection in a holding midfield role. Nevertheless, Hasebe’s precision passing and dribbling skills from deep will remain vital to concocting scoring opportunities at the FIFA Confederations Cup.