Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura, the MVP of the 2004 AFC Asian Cup, will return to defend Japan's title next month, spearheading the squad announced on Monday.

Frankfurt striker Naohiro Takahara - who scored five goals in the 2000 edition - was also named in the squad alongside Nakamura.

Japan coach Ivica Osim named 30 players in the bid to win a third straight continental title thanks to a new regulation that includes seven reserve players to take account of injuries.

Osim, who guided the former Yugoslavia to the 1990 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals, plans to decide on the 23 starting players only days before the team's opening match on 9 July J.League games continue until the end of June.

"We have more time to make selections. I must think about that as we have three more games in the J-League and players may get injured," said Osim.

"Among the participating countries, Japan are the only one where a league competition is still being played and we don't have enough time to prepare. It's a big disadvantage."

Of other Europe-based players, Osim did not call up Basel's Koji Nakata or Frankfurt's Junichi Inamoto, but he denied it was because their poor performances in the Kirin Cup two weeks ago.

Brazilian-born Marcus Tulio Tanaka of the Urawa Red Diamonds was named, even though he twisted his right ankle when he clashed with FC Tokyo forward Sota Hirayama in a J-League match on Sunday.

The squad includes three players who took part in both the previous Asian Cup victories: Nakamura, goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi and defender Yuji Nakazawa.

Japan will play 2006 Asian Games gold medallists Qatar on 9 July, the United Arab Emirates on 13 July and minnows Vietnam on 16 July in the Asian Cup co-hosted by Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand.

Goalkeepers: Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi (Jubilo Iwata), Seigo Narazaki (Nagoya Grampus Eight), Yohei Nishibe (Shimizu S-Pulse), Eiji Kawashima (Kawasaki Frontale)

Defenders: Yuji Nakazawa (Yokohama Marinos), Keisuke Tsuboi (Urawa Red Diamonds), Akira Kaji (Gamba Osaka), Marcus Tulio Tanaka (Urawa Red Diamonds), Yuichi Komano (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Hiroki Mizumoto (JEF United Chiba)

Midfielders: Shunsuke Nakamura (Celtic/SCO), Hideo Hashimoto (Gamba Osaka), Naotake Hanyu (JEF United Chiba), Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka), Kengo Nakamura (Kawasaki Frontale), Keita Suzuki (Urawa Reds), Yuki Abe (Urawa Reds), Yasuyuki Konno (FC Tokyo), Satoru Yamagishi (JEF United Chiba), Yoshiaki Ota (Jubilo Iwata), Masahiko Inoha (FC Tokyo), Koki Mizuno (JEF United Chiba), Keisuke Honda (Nagoya Grampus Eight), Akihiro Ienaga (Gamba Osaka)

Forwards: Naohiro Takahara (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Ryuji Bando (Gamba Osaka), Seiichiro Maki (JEF United Chiba), Ryoichi Maeda (Jubilo Iwata), Hisato Sato (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Kisho Yano (Albirex Niigata)