Vahid Halilhodzic recalls Mu Kanazaki for East Asian tournament

Kyodo

Japan boss Vahid Halilhodzic recalled Kashima Antlers striker Mu Kanazaki and brought in several new faces as he named a 23-man squad on Wednesday for the upcoming E-1 Football Championship.

Returning Cerezo Osaka midfielder Hiroshi Kiyotake was also named to the squad made up entirely of domestic-based players for the four-team tournament to be held at Ajinomoto Stadium.

Kanazaki is back in the national team fold for the first time since May last year. The 28-year-old fell out of favor with Halilhodzic and was overlooked for selection for throwing a tantrum when he was substituted in a league game for Antlers against Shonan Bellmare in August last year.

“He (Kanazaki) behaved inappropriately with his club but that is in the past now and as far as I am concerned it is forgotten about,” said Halilhodzic. “He knows he behaved badly and I have spoken to him about it.”

“He is a player that shows a lot of movement up front. He has power and is aggressive. He is a rare type of player that is strong in one-on-one duels,” he said.

Gamba Osaka defender Ryo Hatsuse, midfielder Kento Misao and defender Shuto Yamamoto (both Kashima), Kashiwa Reysol striker Junya Ito and Kawasaki Frontale forward Hiroyuki Abe were handed their first call-ups.

Japan plays North Korea on Dec. 9 in its first match of the E-1 Football Championship (formerly the East Asian Cup). Halilhodzic’s men then play China on Dec. 12 before wrapping up the tournament against South Korea on Dec. 16.

“We are playing at home so the objective has to be to win the championship,” said Halilhodzic.

“I want the players to play with ambition. This (tournament) is part of our preparations for next year’s global scale event,” the Franco-Bosnian said, referring to the World Cup in Russia kicking off in June.