Euro stars or no Euro stars, Japan coach Zico has demanded nothing less than victory from his players ahead of the East Asian Championship, which kicks off in Japan on Thursday.

The Brazilian has named an under-strength squad due to the absence of several European-based first-team regulars for the Dec. 4-10 tournament against China, Hong Kong and South Korea but stressed the importance of positive results as Japan prepare for its World Cup qualifying campaign in February.

“This will be a good opportunity to size up the teams that we could be facing in the Asian qualifiers for the World Cup,” Zico told a news conference Sunday.

“And as host nation we cannot afford any embarrassment and the players must be aware that only victory will do,” he said.

Midfielder Toshiya Fujita, who plays for Dutch club FC Utrecht was the only overseas player Zico named to the 23-man squad but he will only be available for Japan’s final match against South Korea on Dec. 10.

Captain Hidetoshi Nakata (Parma) and fellow midfielders Junichi Inamoto (Fulham) and Shinji Ono (Feyenoord) will be missing, as will German-based striker Naohiro Takahara, due to club commitments.

“I have had to make changes to the squad but this is probably the best group of J. League players and the way I see it is that they have three games to battle for their positions and that can only be good for the team,” Zico said.

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