YOKOHAMA – National team manager Takeshi Okada has accused Scotland of short-changing his side ahead of their friendly on Saturday, after the Scots arrived in Yokohama minus 10 players selected for their original squad.
Manchester United’s Darren Fletcher and Tottenham Hotspur’s Alan Hutton added their names to the list of absentees just hours before the Scots left for Japan on Wednesday, leaving manager George Burley with a wildly experimental squad for what Okada was banking on being an important test ahead of next year’s World Cup.
Okada had to go back to the drawing board for Thursday’s Asian Cup qualifier against Hong Kong after hearing of the withdrawals, eventually sending out his strongest players rather than holding them back for Saturday’s game against Scotland as he had intended.
That resulted in an easy 6-0 win, but on Friday Okada was still seething at having his hand forced.
“Scotland said they were going to send their best players, and then they made some changes right before coming here,” he said. “I find it hard to believe that they picked up these injuries just before coming, and it would have been helpful if they could have told us.
“At this time of the season it is difficult to set up matches against strong teams, and I can understand that they sent a second-string squad. But we want to be informed before they come.”
Burley, however, insists he had no choice.
“As the national team manager, I’m the most disappointed that we have lost a number of good players,” he said.
“I wanted to bring those 22 players that I picked originally. But unfortunately because of injury, and maybe because British football is very competitive, we’ve lost a lot of players.
“We’ve picked everybody that’s available to play. There’s nothing I can do about it — that is the strongest squad I could get together. They are injured, and we can’t play with injured players.”
Okada is set to make wholesale changes from the team that beat Hong Kong, with Catania striker Takayuki Morimoto poised to make his debut after being forced to pull out of last month’s tour to the Netherlands through injury.
The focus will be firmly on Morimoto after finding the net three times in Italy’s Serie A so far this season, but Okada insists the 21-year-old is taking it all in his stride.
“We don’t do anything difficult or complicated, so I’m sure he understands what we are all about,” Okada said. “Whether he can do it is another matter, but I have spoken to him today and he is very relaxed about it.”
Shimizu S-Pulse defender Keisuke Iwashita and Kashima Antlers’ Daiki Iwamasa could also make their international bows, with FC Tokyo’s Naohiro Ishikawa set to win his first cap in five years alongside VVV-Venlo’s Keisuke Honda in attacking midfield.
“I don’t know anything about Scotland, but the image we have of them is that they are all big,” Honda said.
“We will just try to get the ball and control the game ourselves.”