Japan take on South American powerhouse Uruguay on Wednesday in a warm-up game as they tune up for the final round of Asian qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
VfL Bochum midfielder Shinji Ono will join up with the Japanese squad for the first time since Germany 2006 for the match in the northern city of Sapporo. "Uruguay play aggressively and put pressure on their opponents, so it will be good preparation for the match against Bahrain in the first qualifier," Japan coach Takeshi Okada said.
Japan were drawn with Australia, Bahrain, Uzbekistan and Qatar in Group A, seeking one of the top two places to qualify for South Africa.
Ono has been called up in place of Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura, who had an operation for a groin injury last month and was only back in action at the weekend. "I've been playing without thinking too much about returning to the national team. I've done my best for Bochum and it resulted in this return," Ono was quoted as saying by the Nikkan Sports daily. "First of all, I want to adjust myself to the team," added Ono, who has scored six goals in 55 games for Japan.
Okada said: "These players are not only for the match against Uruguay. I need them also for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers. I want to test how they play."
Japan face Bahrain in Manama on 6 September. The top two teams from Group A and the top two from Group B will qualify for the FIFA World Cup finals, while the third-placed teams in each group will face each other for a place in a play-off against the Oceania winners.
Uruguay, who missed out on Germany 2006 after losing to Australia in a play-off, have brought a 20-strong squad made up of mostly Europe-based players including Barcelona defender Martin Caceres and Schalke striker Vicente Sanchez.
Uruguay, FIFA World Cup winners in 1930 and 1950, currently lie in sixth place in the South American group. The top four teams from that group will automatically qualify for South Africa, and the fifth-placed team will play off against a team from the group covering North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
Uruguay play Colombia in Bogota on 6 September and Ecuador in a home match in Montevideo four days later. Japan and Uruguay have one win, one draw and one defeat each in their previous meetings.