Japan's squad for this summer's World Cup appears to be taking shape, but don't bet against manager Vahid Halilhodzic ripping up the blueprint before he submits it in time for the June 4 deadline.

Japan plays its first two games of the year over the coming week against Mali on March 23 and Ukraine four days later, both in Liege, Belgium. Halilhodzic has only a May 30 home friendly against Ghana to follow before he must finalize his 23-man World Cup selection, and he appears determined to keep all options open until the last minute.

"A lot of the players are not currently performing at their best level," Halilhodzic said last week as he announced his 26-man squad for this week's trip to Europe. "I picked this squad to send a message to the players that I want to see them all returning to their best form."