Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura will spearhead Japan against Bahrain in the opening fixture of the final qualifying round for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, the Japan Football Association has announced.
Nakamura, who has scored 21 goals in 78 games for the national team, is one of four Europe-based players named to the squad for the 6 September match in Bahrain. The others are Eintracht Frankfurt's Junichi Inamoto, Saint Etienne's Daisuke Matsui and VfL Wolfsburg's Makoto Hasebe.
"This is the first match of the final round and it is very important. I chose these 20 players who are able to fight in hot weather and understand the concept of the team very well," said Japan coach Takeshi Okada. "I'm going to pick up a few more players after the J-League matches this week. Hopefully, we can win this important match."
Japan were drawn with Australia, Bahrain, Uzbekistan and Qatar in Group A, seeking one of the top two places to qualify for the FIFA World Cup. 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.
In the earlier round, Japan lost to Bahrain 1-0 in Manama in March, playing a defensive game which led to criticism of Okada's tactics, but beat the Gulf side 1-0 at home in June and finished top in the group. Okada said the difference from the match in March would be the hot weather and better pitch conditions.
"We're not thinking about the previous results. First off, it's important to win the first match in order to go to the World Cup. We must do our very best and we must win," said Okada.
Okada did not call up VfL Bochum midfielder Shinji Ono, who re-joined the team last week for the first time since the 2006 FIFA World Cup to play in a friendly against Uruguay, who beat Japan 3-1.
The team will leave here on 2 September for Bahrain, where they will meet the Europe-based players. The football association also announced that Japan will play a tune-up match against the United Arab Emirates on 9 October in Niigata, north of Tokyo.
Goalkeepers: Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi (Jubilo Iwata), Seigo Narazaki (Nagoya Grampus), Shusaku Nishikawa (Oita Trinita)
Defenders: Yuji Nakazawa (Yokohama Marinos), Kazumichi Takagi (Shimizu S-Pulse), Marcus Tulio Tanaka (Urawa Red Diamonds), Yuichi Komano (Jubilo Iwata), Yuki Abe (Urawa), Yuto Nagatomo (FC Tokyo)
Midfielders: Shunsuke Nakamura (Celtic/SCO), Junichi Inamoto (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka), Kengo Nakamura (Kawasaki Frontale), Daisuke Matsui (Saint-Etienne/FRA), Yasuyuki Konno (FC Tokyo), Makoto Hasebe (VfL Wolfsburg/GER)
Forwards: Keiji Tamada (Nagoya Grampus), Seiichiro Maki (JEF United Chiba), Hisato Sato (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Tatsuya Tanaka (Urawa)