Nakazawa boosts Japan for Asian Cup

TOKYO, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Japan were given a confidence boost for next month's Asian Cup on Wednesday when key defender Yuji Nakazawa said he would be fit for the Qatar tournament.

The tough-tackling 32-year-old tore knee ligaments in training with his J-League side Yokohama F-Marinos last month but is already back in training.

"I'm able to run without having to worry about the injury," Nakazawa told Japan's Nikkan Sports newspaper. "My condition is pretty much where it needs to be."

Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni feared he would be without the influential centre-back for the January 7-29 Asian Cup, the Italian's first official tournament in charge of the Blue Samurai.

Nakazawa, a key member of Japan's last two World Cup sides, has responded well to surgery, however, and was included among a preliminary squad of 50 players named earlier this week.

The news gives Japan a welcome lift with Nakazawa's central defensive partner Tulio set to miss Asia's showpiece event having also suffered a knee injury.

Zaccheroni is currently in Europe attempting to secure the services of his European-based players for the tournament.

Japan finished fourth at the last Asian Cup in 2007 where Iraq recorded a famous victory.