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Striker Minamino earns first call-up under Halilhodzic

Kyodo

Salzburg striker Takumi Minamino won his first senior national team call-up under Vahid Halilhodzic as the Japan coach named his squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Syria.

AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda and Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa were included in the 23-man squad as expected, while there were call-ups for Hiroshi Kiyotake of Hannover, Sanfrecce Hiroshima defender Tsukasa Shiotani and Urawa Reds midfielder Yosuke Kashiwagi.

“He can adapt to the modern game,” Halilhodzic said of Minamino. “He is scoring goals and is in a position where he is creating goals for others.”

Still without a club, two-time World Cup goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima was left out again, while Wataru Endo, Hiroki Sakai and Kensuke Nagai are unavailable due to injury.

Japan plays Syria, the leader in Asian qualifying second-round Group E, in neutral Oman on Oct. 8 and then have a friendly penciled in away to Iran on Oct. 13.

“It will be our most difficult game (against Syria) and most important,” Halilhodzic said. “But Japan have fantastic quality and experience. We have to win this game.”

Halilhodzic’s men have seven points from three games. After being held to a shock 0-0 draw at home to Singapore in their Group E opener, Japan beat Cambodia 3-0, then hammered Afghanistan 6-0.

The squad:

Goalkeepers — Masaaki Higashiguchi (Gamba Osaka), Shusaku Nishikawa (Urawa Reds), Yuji Rokutan (Vegalta Sendai)

Defenders — Daiki Niwa (Gamba Osaka), Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan), Tomoaki Makino (Urawa Reds), Masato Morishige (FC Tokyo), Koki Yonekura (Gamba Osaka), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Tsukasa Shiotani (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Gotoku Sakai (Hamburg)

Midfielders — Makoto Hasebe (Eintracht Frankfurt), Yosuke Kashiwagi (Urawa Reds), Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund), Hiroshi Kiyotake (Hannover) Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka), Gaku Shibasaki (Kashima Antlers)

Forwards — Shinji Okazaki (Leicester City), Keisuke Honda (AC Milan), Genki Haraguchi (Hertha Berlin), Takashi Usami (Gamba Osaka), Yoshinori Muto (Mainz), Takumi Minamino (Salzburg)