Japan manager Javier Aguirre turned to the tried and trusted for upcoming friendlies against Honduras and Australia, recalling several veterans on Wednesday for the last warm-ups ahead of the Asian Cup.
Aguirre recalled two-time World Cup captain Makoto Hasebe, Gamba Osaka midfielders Yasuhito Endo and Yasuyuki Konno and Schalke defender Atsuto Uchida for the final matches of the World Cup year.
Also back in the fold for the Nov. 14 and 18 games against Honduras and Australia, respectively, were Sagan Tosu forward Yohei Toyoda and Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Takashi Inui.
For his first four games in charge against Uruguay, Venezuela, Jamaica and Brazil, Aguirre had picked a bunch of inexperienced players but the experimenting appears to be all but over.
Aguirre said he has decided on “80 to 90 percent” of his 23 for the Jan. 9-31 tournament in Australia.
“I have the base of the squad in mind, but the list is not yet complete,” Aguirre said. “I do have a team in mind for the Asian Cup. I want to win these two games so we can head to Australia with our confidence high.
“This is the last opportunity to work with players firsthand before the Asian Cup. I’m happy I’ll be working with players I haven’t seen before. To beat these two teams, we will need to perform well against them.”
Hasebe was selected for the games in September against Uruguay and Venezuela, but pulled out with an injury. Endo — Japan’s most capped player ever with 146 appearances — Konno and Uchida will don the blue shirt for the first time since this summer’s World Cup.
While AC Milan striker Keisuke Honda has worn the armband in Hasebe’s absence, Aguirre said he will decide on his skipper once the whole squad arrives.
“What’s important in football is quality, not age,” Aguirre said. “Makoto had some problems with his knee the first time we got together so we had to send him back.
“But I’ve been watching him every week for Frankfurt and he has been playing at a high level. He’s fit now which is why I called him up. As for the captain, I will decide once everyone is together.
“Endo and Konno have a wealth of experience and have had a great season so far. More often than not, they are the best players in any game they play in and not just for their teams.
“They are in top physical condition despite their age. I want them to mentor the younger players like (Gaku) Shibasaki and (Taishi) Taguchi.”
After Alberto Zaccheroni’s Japan crashed out of the World Cup in Brazil with two defeats and a goalless draw, the Germany-based Uchida, exhausted by the commitments to the national side, had been contemplating international retirement.
But, at least for now, Uchida has been talked into continuing his Japan career by Aguirre, who highly rates the fleet-footed right-back.
“I expect him to do what he does for Schalke every week and what he’s done for Japan throughout his career,” the Mexican said. “He is a consistent performer, is physically strong and very skilled on the ball.
“After the World Cup, there was a stretch where he wasn’t playing but he has been playing on a regular basis for the last month or month-and-a-half.”
The Japan Football Association, which on this day also announced an eight-year contract extension with kit supplier Adidas from 2015, must submit a provisional list of 50 to the Asian Football Confederations by Dec. 9 for the Asian Cup.