Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi was publicly ruled out of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ when he broke his leg earlier this year. Such is the goalkeeper’s experience and influence, however, that after he returned to the field of play earlier than expected, Takeshi Okada unexpected decided to name him in Japan’s squad for the tournament for a fourth time.
Although relatively small for a player of his position, Kawaguchi was signed by Yokohama Marinos in 1994. He was promoted into the first team the following year, which proven to be a golden one for the then-20-year-old. Indeed, he finished up with the J.League’s Rookie of the Year award; his employers ended the campaign as Japanese champions.
Kawaguchi enhanced his reputation in the blue of Japan in 1996, inspiring them to a memorable 1-0 win over Brazil, and he also kept goal for his nation at France 1998. He continued to shine for the Marinos thereafter, before joining Portsmouth in 2001.
Kawaguchi’s time in England was disappointing, although he did become a fans’ favourite at Pompey due to his infectious smile and warm personality. A move to Nordsjaelland ensued in 2003, but the agile goalie failed to establish himself in Denmark. A return to his homeland in 2005 benefited Kawaguchi, who has since excelled for Jubilo Iwata.
A penalty-saving expert, Kawaguchi played in all three of Japan’s matches at Germany 2006. “I am taking him to South Africa because this team needs a man who can lighten the mood under any circumstances,” said Okada. “He is the true leader on and off the pitch.”