Nakamura returns for Kirin Cup

Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura was named in Japan's squad for this month's Kirin Cup on Thursday, his first call-up under coach Takeshi Okada.

Nakamura joins fellow European-based players Daisuke Matsui of Le Mans and Vfl Wolfsburg's Makoto Hasebe in the squad for the tournament with Ivory Coast and Paraguay starting next week.

Japan will face Côte d'Ivoire on 24 May and Paraguay on 27 May in a useful work-out ahead of next month's FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers.

Okada, who took charge after Ivica Osim's life-threatening stroke in November, said he was an admirer of Nakamura and expected to include him in the team.

"I've watched their games on video. I want to see how they can integrate themselves with the team. Especially Shunsuke has good ability. I want to see him play in the team," he said.

Nakamura is expected to join the team after 23 May and will probably miss Japan's opener against African powerhouses Côte d'Ivoire. Basel's Koji Nakata and Junichi Inamoto of Eintracht Frankfurt are sidelined due to injury.

"Among the African countries, Côte d'Ivoire have the most players who play in Europe: England, France and Germany," said Okada. "Their technique and physical ability are really good. It will be a good opportunity for us to play a team like that, because we can try to execute our game-plan. These are test matches for the World Cup qualifier.

"Paraguay play constant and defend solidly, while they turn to attack quickly. They are currently top in the South American qualifying round. Probably their style of play is what Japan must aim at."

Côte d'Ivoire and Paraguay open the tournament on Thursday. Japan resume FIFA World Cup qualifying next month with one win and one defeat in their first two matches.