Japan have announced their 23-man squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ with former Portsmouth goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi the only surprise call-up by coach Takeshi Okada. The 34-year-old Jubilo Iwata custodian has not featured for the national team in 18 months due to a number of lacklustre performances after recovering from a broken leg.
However, Okada has decided to include him in his squad along with fellow goalkeepers Seigo Narazaki of Nagoya Grampus and Eiji Kawashima of Kawasaki Frontale. "He can be in a difficult position as third goalkeeper," Okada said of Kawaguchi. "But he has a strong leadership and we need his presence for us to compete through this coming tournament."
Okada has also named four Europe-based players in the squad with midfielders Keisuke Honda of CSKA Moscow, Makoto Hasebe of Wolfsburg, Daisuke Matsui of Grenoble and Catania forward Takayuki Morimoto all included. Yokohama F. Marinos' Shunsuke Nakamura and Kawasaki Frontale's Junichi Inamoto are in the squad, justifying their decisions to return to Japan from Europe.
Japan open against Cameroon in South Africa on 14 June before then playing the Netherlands and Denmark and coach Okada is unwavering in his belief that they can reach the semi-finals.
"I had a hard time making up my mind regarding al areas of the team, but I selected those players in order to win and achieve our objective," he said. "I haven't changed the objective. In order to make that come true, however, we first have to get through the group stage and our first match against Cameroon will be the most important to us. With those 23 players, I believe that we can achieve our objective."
Japan squad: Seigo Narazaki (Nagoya Grampus), Eiji Kawashima (Kawasaki Frontale), Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi (Jubilo Iwata); 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); 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); Keiji Tamada (Nagoya Grampus), Yoshito Okubo (Vissel Kobe), Kisho Yano (Albirex Niigata), Shinji Okazaki (Shimizu S-Pulse), Takayuki Morimoto (Catania).
*Please note that squad lists only become official after they have been submitted to and announced by FIFA.