Tomoaki Makino is one of the finest defenders to have graduated from Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s revered academy. A no-nonsense centre-back who can also bring the ball out from the back, he will be 23 when South Africa 2010 kicks off.
Makino began playing football aged six, but it took eight years for Sanfrecce to convert him from a striker into a stopper. His influence was readily apparent, and he captained the club’s youth side for a couple of years before making the leap into their first-team squad in 2006.
Makino took part in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2007, but was left disappointed by Sanfreece’s relegation into the Japanese second flight. There, his defensive expertise and seven goals in 41 games helped his team return to the J.League at the first attempt.
A free-kick specialist and a danger in the air, he netted eight times in the top flight last term. Earlier this year, Takeshi Okada handed Makino his full Japan debut in an AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Yemen.