Osim not pulling Euro-based trigger

by James Mulligan

Ivica Osim is unlikely to recall any European-based players for Japan’s upcoming friendly against Peru and may hold off from calling any up until the Asian Cup finals.

The game against the South Americans in Yokohama on March 24 will be the national team’s first game of 2007 and one of only three scheduled before Osim’s men do battle for a third-straight Asian Cup triumph in July.

Celtic playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura and Eintracht Frankfurt forward Naohiro Takahara are two players based in Europe who have been in scintillating form for their clubs this season and have been linked with a callup.

But the Japan coach told reporters at JFA House on Tuesday he may resist the urge of reaching for his “trump cards” now, hinting the national team can reap the rewards later if he doesn’t put unnecessary demands on his European stars.

“As I have said before, I’ve always considered the players based in Europe to be in my plans. Yet one has to pick the best time to use their trump card, and it should not be played too early,” said Osim.

“Before deciding on whether we want to use the trump card or not we want to train those who are in Japan, and that’s what we want to do first.”

Osim announces his squad for the first training camp of the year on Wednesday, and it begins in Chiba Prefecture the following day. The squad to face Peru is expected to be whittled down from the group of players attending the training camp, with a distant possibility of Osim adding a player who catches his eye early in the new J. League season — if he leaves the final squad announcement that late.

The Japan coach hasn’t picked a single player based in Europe since taking over from Zico after last year’s World Cup and said it is difficult to justify asking those players to travel to Asia for friendly matches.

“It is not only about us but also about their schedule in Europe,” Osim said. “You have to consider the side effects of bringing a player over to Japan. He has to go back to Europe following the game and then has to reunite his club right away. But you know how hard the competition in Europe is.”

The Peru friendly, however, coincides with a fixed date for European Championship qualifiers, which means European league schedules would be cleared, to a degree, either side of Mar. 24.

Osim said South American team Peru, which filled the void after South Korea pulled out of a friendly with its local rival, will be strong competition, although he aired his frustrations at the JFA for not being able to come up with a stronger opponent.

“Of course it would be better to play against Brazil or Germany, but it is not that easy to arrange matches against opponents of that caliber,” he said.