Japan coach Zico has recalled West Bromwich Albion midfielder Junichi Inamoto for the Asian champion’s final game of the year against 2002 World Cup finalist Germany next week in Yokohama.
Fellow European-based stars Naohiro Takahara, Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, who is set to join Jubilo Iwata, and Spain-bound striker Yoshito Okubo were also picked Monday as Japan looks to wrap up the year on a high when the two teams meet in the Dec. 16 friendly.
Inamoto has yet to make his first-team debut at West Brom since recovering from a broken leg suffered in Japan’s 1-1 draw with England in the summer, but the English Premier League club has given Zico the green light to pick the 25-year-old.
“Inamoto has been out of the picture for a while but he is better now and can play. He might not be in the first team at West Brom but I know that he is physically in good condition and has really got his match fitness back,” Zico said.
“If it was a case of us needing three points at all costs in a World Cup qualifier or something I might think again. But it’s a friendly against a good side and I’ve picked him and hope he will put in a strong performance.”
Hamburg SV striker Takahara and Denmark-based goalkeeper Kawaguchi return after being rested for last month’s World Cup qualifier against Singapore, while Okubo, who is set to join new club Mallorca, has been called up for the second straight game.
Urawa Reds and Yokohama F. Marinos face off in the second leg of the J. League Championship final Saturday, and the two teams have had their Emperor’s Cup fixtures moved from the weekend to Dec. 15.
Zico, however, has been given the green light to pick players from both teams for the Germany clash.
Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann called up three new players for the team’s three-nation trip to Asia.
Klinsmann last week named VfL Wolfsburg goalkeeper Simon Jentzsch, and defenders Patrick Owomoyela of Arminia Bielefeld and Schalke 04’s Christian Pander in his 22-man squad.
Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger and Fulham defender Moritz Volz have not been selected because of club commitments.
Two teams accepted
The J. League on Monday approved the entry of two Japan Football League clubs, Tokushima Vortis and Thespa Kusatsu, into the league’s second division for next season but overlooked an application by Ehime FC.
The J. League, which will be entering its 13th season since its establishment, will be expanded to 30 teams compared with just 10 in 1993. There will be 18 first-division teams and 12 in the second division.
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