Striker Hisato Sato earned a call-up for the first time since Takeshi Okada took over as national coach last December as the Japan Football Association announced the 25-man squad Monday for the upcoming World Cup qualifier at home against Bahrain.
Sato, playing for J. League second-division club Sanfrecce Hiroshima, returned to the Japan party ahead of the Bahrain clash in Saitama on Sunday in their final Group 2 game of Asian third-round qualifiers for the 2010 tournament in South Africa.
“I don’t find anyone else who can play a super-sub role and that’s why I picked Sato,” Okada said of the 26-year-old, who made 19 international appearances and scored three goals before former coach Ivica Osim suffered a stroke in November last year.
Japan and Bahrain have both secured their places in the final round of qualifiers beginning in September, but Okada had earlier suggested he will field a strong side to avenge Japan’s 1-0 defeat in the away leg in Manama in March. Bahrain is one point clear of Japan, while Oman and Thailand have been eliminated.
Celtic playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura remained on the squad along with fellow European-based midfielders Daisuke Matsui of Saint Etienne and Makoto Hasebe of VfL Wolfsburg.