Under-pressure Japan coach takes few risks

UNDER-pressure Japan coach Takeshi Okada took few risks in naming his country’s 23-man World Cup squad.

UNDER-pressure Japan coach Takeshi Okada took few risks in naming his country’s 23-man World Cup squad.

Europe-based quartet Makoto Hasebe (Wolfsburg), Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow), Daisuke Matsui and Takayuki Morimoto (Catania) have all been included.

They join former Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura and 2009 Asian player of the year Yasuhito Endo ahead of Japan’s Group E opener against Cameroon on June 14.

Playmaker Nakamura is expected to be fit for Japan’s final World Cup warm-up against the Ivory Coast on Friday. He missed Sunday’s 2-1 defeat by England due to an ankle injury, but then played 90 minutes of a practice match on Monday.

Okada – who was in charge for Japan’s winless World Cup finals debut at France 98 – received the backing of Japan Football Association president Motoaki Inukai following a one-sided 2-0 defeat to South Korea on May 24.

Domestic-based Japan sides also lost to South Korea in February’s East Asian Championship and to a second-string Serbia in April, making Okada’s stated target of reaching the semi-finals in South Africa look decidedly optimistic.

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However, the Blue Samurai did produce a much-improved display against England in Austria, two own-goals eventually reversing an early lead.

Japan squad: Seigo Narazaki (Nagoya Grampus), Eiji Kawashima (Kawasaki Frontale), Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi (Jubilo Iwata); Yuji Nakazawa (Yokohama Marinos), Marcus Tulio Tanaka (Nagoya Grampus), Yuichi Komano (Jubilo Iwata), Daiki Iwamasa (Kashima Antlers), Yasuyuki Konno (FC Tokyo), Yuto Nagatomo (FC Tokyo), Atsuto Uchida (Kashima Antlers); Shunsuke Nakamura

(Yokohama Marinos), Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka), Kengo Nakamura (Kawasaki Frontale), Junichi Inamoto (Kawasaki Frontale), Yuki Abe (Urawa Red Diamonds), Makoto Hasebe (Wolfsburg, Germany), Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow, Russia), Daisuke

Matsui (Grenoble, France); Shinji Okazaki (Shimizu S-Pulse), Keiji Tamada (Nagoya Grampus), Yasuhito Okubo (Vissel Kobe), Kisho Yano (Albirex Niigata), Takayuki Morimoto (Catania, Italy).

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