Ex-Japan defender Naoki Matsuda dies

The 34-year-old Matsuda had been in critical condition after collapsing Tuesday during practice with his club, Matsumoto Yamaga.

“He passed away today at 1:06 p.m.,” Yamaga president Hiroshi Otsuki said. “Since Tuesday there has been an outpouring of support from Matsuda fans all over Japan.”

Matsuda played 40 times for Japan, including at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. He also played 385 J-League games for the Yokohama F Marinos from 1995-2010, helping the team to three league titles.

“It’s a huge shock,” former Japan captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto said. “I will always remember playing alongside him at the 2002 World Cup. He was a great teammate.”

Matsuda collapsed after a 15-minute training run on Tuesday. After an initial diagnosis of heat stroke, he was later confirmed to have had a cardiac arrest. He was unconscious when he arrived at the hospital and showed no response to heart massage.

“I never got to know Matsuda directly but knew what a great player he was having watched him in the J-League last year,” Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni said.

Matsuda joined third-tier club Matsumoto Yamaga this year after spending his entire J-League career with Yokohama.

Matsuda’s death is the latest concern for soccer authorities.

In 2003, Cameroon international Marc-Vivien Foe collapsed and died while playing at the Confederations Cup in France. A year later, Hungary striker Miklos Feher died from a heart attack while playing for Benfica in the Portuguese league and Sevilla defender Antonio Puerta died in 2007 after a heart attack during a Spanish league match.

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