Daiki Iwamasa’s idol may be the graceful former Italy forward Roberto Baggio, but it is as a no-nonsense centre-back that he is renowned. Tall, physical, good in the air and a free-kick specialist, he was Japan coach Takeshi Okada third-choice centre-back in South Africa 2010 qualifying.
Iwamasa graduated from Iwakuni High School and then Tokyo Gakugei University, where he got a teaching degree in mathematics. He had the choice to join FC Tokyo in 2003, but instead elected to sign for Kashima Antlers, for whom he debuted the following year.
He finished the season having scored four times in 18 outings, which helped cement his place in the Kashima team. His relative prolificacy continued thereafter: he netted four goals in 31 games in 2005, three in 30 the following year, six in 33 in 2007, two in 33 in 2008 and four in 33 last year - impressive figures for a player whose principal duty it is to prevent them going in at his end.
Iwamasa first made the Japan squad in 2008, and debuted for his nation against Scotland last year. He was included in the J.League’s team of the season in each of the past three years.