Ivica Osim named Japan’s provisional squad for the Asian Cup finals at JFA House on Monday evening, and the national team coach couldn’t find room in his 30-strong list for Europe-based players Koji Nakata and Junichi Inamoto.
Celtic playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura and Eintracht Frankfurt striker Naohiro Takahara were the only two overseas-based players to be called up for the July 7-29 finals in Southeast Asia, where defending champion Japan will be looking for its third straight continental crown.
Osim is expected to trim his squad down to 23 players before Japan departs for Vietnam on July 4. The Boys in Blue’s first game is against Qatar in Hanoi on July 9.
Eintracht’s new midfield signing Inamoto and defender Nakata, at the end of his contract with Swiss club FC Basel, both figured in the recent Kirin Cup but missed out as the Bosnian coach picked a squad with a strong domestic flavor.
“Leaving these players out was nothing to do with the way they played at the Kirin Cup,” said Osim. “Inamoto has just joined a new club and Nakata doesn’t have a contract for next season.
“I would like to be able to find Nakata a club but that is not part of my job. Players that have been left out will not feel good but it does not mean that they will never be called up again. They must try hard to do well and try to work their way into the picture for the 2010 World Cup qualifiers,” said Osim.
Inamoto had said during the Kirin Cup that he would rather concentrate on preseason training at his new club in Germany than head to the finals.
Shunsuke Nakamura and Takahara are among 10 players in Osim’s list who also made Zico’s squad for the World Cup finals last year in Germany, where Japan crashed out in the first round. The others are ‘keepers Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi and Seigo Narazaki, defenders Yuji Nakazawa, Keisuke Tsuboi, Akira Kaji and Yuichi Komano, midfielder Yasuhito Endo and striker Seiichiro Maki.
Shunsuke Nakamura, Yokohama F. Marinos central defender Nakazawa and Kawaguchi are also veterans of Japan’s Asian Cup triumphs in Lebanon in 2000 and China in 2004.
“Those players have won the title twice so they could be of the attitude that they don’t need a third title,” Osim said. “Hopefully that’s not the case and they will lead by example and try to motivate the other players.”
Meanwhile, Urawa Reds’ Marcus Tulio Tanaka was included in the squad, despite the central defender being carried off the pitch with a twisted ankle in Sunday’s J. League match against FC Tokyo. Tulio was said to be walking around on his injured ankle Monday.
The J. League program runs until a week before the start of the tournament and Osim is concerned that three further rounds of league fixtures could throw up more injury headaches and leave scant preparation time at the two mini-training camps planned before the squad departs for Vietnam.
“We are the only country at the Asian Cup whose league is still going on and I think that is a bit of a handicap,” said Osim. “I want to win this tournament but I can’t make any guarantees.”
Japan is based in Hanoi for the opening round of the finals and will also play United Arab Emirates and Vietnam in Group B. This year’s continental championship is being co-hosted by Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
THE SQUAD IN FULL:
GOALKEEPERS: Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi (Jubilo Iwata), Seigo Narazaki (Nagoya Grampus Eight), Yohei Nishibe (Shimizu S-Pulse), Eiji Kawashima (Kawasaki Frontale).
DEFENDERS: Keisuke Tsuboi, Marcus Tulio Tanaka (Urawa Reds), Yuji Nakazawa (Yokohama F. Marinos), Akira Kaji (Gamba Osaka), Yuichi Komano (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Hiroki Mizumoto (JEF United Chiba).
MIDFIELDERS: Hideo Hashimoto, Yasuhito Endo, Akihiro Ienaga (Gamba Osaka), Naotake Hanyu, Satoru Yamagishi, Koki Mizuno (JEF United Chiba), Keita Suzuki, Yuki Abe (Urawa Reds), Yasuyuki Konno, Masahiko Inoha (FC Tokyo), Shunsuke Nakamura (Celtic), Kengo Nakamura (Kawasaki Frontale), Yoshiaki Ota (Jubilo Iwata), Keisuke Honda (Nagoya Grampus Eight).
FORWARDS: Naohiro Takahara (Eintracht Frankfurt), Ryuji Bando (Gamba Osaka), Seiichiro Maki (JEF United Chiba), Ryoichi Maeda (Jubilo Iwata), Hisato Sato (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Kisho Yano (Albirex Niigata).
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