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10/05/2010

Okada names World Cup squad

Japan coach Takeshi Okada announced his 23-member World Cup squad on Monday, with the one big surprise being the inclusion of Jubilo Iwata goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi.

The squad features four Europe-based players: CSKA Moscow midfielder Keisuke Honda, Wolfsburg midfielder Makoto Hasebe, Grenoble midfielder Daisuke Matsui and Catania forward Takayuki Morimoto.
They were joined by Yokohama F. Marinos midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura, a former MVP in the Scottish League when he was with Celtic, and Kawasaki Frontale midfielder Junichi Inamoto, who played for several European clubs including Arsenal, Fulham, Galatasaray and Eintracht Frankfurt.
Shimizu S-Pulse forward Shinji Okazaki, who netted 15 goals for the national team last year, Nagoya Grampus striker Keiji Tamada, who scored against Brazil in the 2006 World Cup, Gamba Osaka midfielder Yasuhito Endo, the 2009 Asian Player of the Year, and defenders Yuji Nakazawa of Yokohama F. Marinos and Marcus Tulio Tanaka of Nagoya were also included.
“I made my selection on the basis of winning and achieving our objective,” Okada said at a Tokyo hotel. Okada has set the semifinals as his side’s target in the upcoming tournament.
“I considered various situations and what type of players we would need for different scenarios,” he said.
Kawaguchi, who was involved in the previous three World Cups, has not been involved with the Japan team since January 2009. The 34-year-old recently returned to action following an injury layoff.
Okada explained, “It might not be easy for him being the ‘third’ goalkeeper, but he has strong leadership and is recognized for his confidence. We really need his presence to help us compete in this tournament.”
Okada, who coached Japan in the 1998 World Cup, stressed, “All these players have their role in the team and are needed for us to win matches.”
Asked if he has changed Japan’s objective of reaching the final four in the tournament, Okada replied: “I haven’t. In order to achieve that, however, we first have to get through the group stage, and among all our games, I think our first match against Cameroon will be the most important. With these 23 players, I believe we can achieve our objective.”
“I hope we can be aggressive both in attack and defense, and work hard in order to pick up victories in the World Cup,” Okada added.
The Japan squad will start tuning up for their fourth straight World Cup from May 21 in Saitama.
They will also play three warm-up matches before heading to South Africa: against Korea Republic on May 24 at Saitama Stadium, against England on May 30 in Graz, Austria, and against Ivory Coast on June 4 in Sion, Switzerland.
In the World Cup, Japan will play in Group E and will face Cameroon on June 14, the Netherlands on June 19 and Denmark on June 24.
Japan reached the Round of 16 in 2002, but failed to make it beyond the group stage in 1998 and 2006.

Squad:
Goalkeepers—Seigo Narazaki (Nagoya Grampus), Eiji Kawashima (Kawasaki Frontale), Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi (Jubilo Iwata)
Defenders—Yuji Nakazawa (Yokohama F. 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)
Midfielders—Shunsuke Nakamura (Yokohama F. Marinos), Junichi Inamoto (Kawasaki Frontale), Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka), Kengo Nakamura (Kawasaki Frontale), Daisuke Matsui (Grenoble), Yuki Abe (Urawa Reds), Makoto Hasebe (Wolfsburg), Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow)
Forwards—Keiji Tamada (Nagoya Grampus), Yoshito Okubo (Vissel Kobe), Kisho Yano (Albirex Niigata), Shinji Okazaki (Shimizu S-Pulse), Takayuki Morimoto (Catania)
Coach—Takeshi Okada