Aguirre shakes up Japan national squad lineup for upcoming friendlies


Staff Writer

New national team manager Javier Aguirre warned Japan’s World Cup flops that their reputations will count for nothing as he named his first squad on Thursday.

Aguirre dropped 11 of the players who crashed out in the first round in Brazil this summer, naming seven uncapped players in his 23-man squad for next month’s friendlies against Uruguay and Venezuela.

There was no place for World Cup veterans Yasuyuki Konno, Yasuhito Endo and Yoshito Okubo as the Mexican turned instead to fresh-faced newcomers such as FC Tokyo’s Yoshinori Muto and Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s Yusuke Minagawa.

Shinji Kagawa also missed out after suffering a concussion in Manchester United’s 4-0 League Cup defeat to MK Dons on Tuesday, but Aguirre warned his star names that no one can expect any favors based on past glories alone.

“I didn’t look at previous squads when I picked this squad,” the 55-year-old said in Tokyo on Thursday. “I listened to the opinions of my coaches and chose the squad. I won’t be choosing players based on whether they have previously been in the squad or not.

“We are starting from scratch. Every player starts from zero and from there I will decide who is in the starting lineup. Whether they are young players or veterans, whether they play in the J. League or in Europe, I make no distinction. They are all national team players.”

Japan takes on Uruguay in Sapporo on Sept. 5 before facing Venezuela in Yokohama four days later.Aguirre has just six friendlies before he takes his side to Australia to defend its Asian Cup crown in January 2015, and the new man is eager to get started.

“We want to be the kind of team that has the ball more than the opposition and attacks more than the opposition, but we have to have balance,” said the former Mexico and Atletico Madrid manager. “That’s not easy. I want us to make good use of space and win the ball back quickly when we lose it. I want us to be an intelligent team.”

Aguirre handed first call-ups to Muto, Minagawa, Sagan Tosu’s Tatsuya Sakai, Albirex Niigata’s Ken Matsubara and Vissel Kobe’s Ryota Morioka, while also including the uncapped Gaku Shibasaki of Kashima Antlers and Sagan goalkeeper Akihiro Hayashi.

Aguirre has only been in Japan since Aug. 11 after taking over from Italian Alberto Zaccheroni, but the Mexican has wasted no time in getting to know his new environment.

“I’ve seen a lot of J. League games and so have my staff, and I’ve also watched a lot of games on video,” said Aguirre.”I want to see as many players as I can in these two games. If I can use all 23 then I will, although that might be difficult. We have six games until the Asian Cup, and the players who pass the test will be the ones I take there.”

Aguirre said that he had planned to call up Kagawa before the midfielder suffered his concussion, and backed him to thrive with current speculation linking him with a move away from Manchester to the Spanish League.

“I don’t want to talk about the players who I didn’t call up, but I originally had Kagawa on the list so I will say something about him,” said Aguirre. “The Spanish League and the English League are a little different, but Shinji is good enough to play at a big club in either one.”

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