Keisuke Honda and Yuto Nagatomo will miss Japan's forthcoming FIFA World Cup™ qualifier against Jordan through injury, but coach Alberto Zaccheroni believes his squad have the strength in depth to replace them.
"Their absence may be a blow to us but we will maintain the team's balance by having their replacements gel smoothly," the Italian said through an interpreter as he announced a 23-strong squad for the 26 March match in Amman.
The squad included 13 Europe-based stars such as Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa - but not the CSKA Moscow's playmaker and Inter Milan defender.
"It is true that I highly rate the [Honda and Nagatomo] but I strongly believe the players who will fill in for them will do well," Zaccheroni told reporters. "There were times when Honda and Nagatomo were absent from past qualifiers but their replacements played brilliantly," he added.
Honda has scored a team-high four goals to help the Blue Samurai build an eight-point lead in Asia's Group B. A win against Jordan in the sixth round of matches will make Japan the first team to qualify for Brazil 2014. The four-time Asian champions lead with 13 points. Australia, Iraq and Oman trail them on five points each and Jordan linger at the bottom of the table on four points.
According to CSKA, Honda has been on a rehabilitation programme to treat injuries to his knee and ankle. Nagatomo is recovering from a knee injury he sustained in a 1-1 draw with AC Milan in late March.
Zaccheroni said Jordan had been lifted by beating Australia at home last September. "Jordan like any other country still have a good chance to qualify. We have to be prepared because they will try to put in their best performance," the former AC Milan coach said. "I don't know whether Jordan will play aggressively or hold back. But we will prepare ourselves for both scenarios."
Zaccheroni's squad will leave on Sunday for Qatar for a training camp and a warm-up match against Canada there on 22 March before arriving in Jordan on 24 March.
Japan squad to face Jordan:
Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima (Standard Liege/BEL), Shusaku Nishikawa (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Shuichi Gonda (FC Tokyo)
Defenders: Yuichi Komano (Jubilo Iwata), Yasuyuki Konno (Gamba Osaka), Yuzo Kurihara (Yokohama Marinos), Masahiko Inoha (Jubilo Iwata), Atsuto Uchida (Schalke/GER), Maya Yoshida (Southampton/ENG), Hiroki Sakai (Hannover/GER), Gotoku Sakai (Stuttgart/GER)
Midfielders: Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka), Kengo Nakamura (Kawasaki Frontale), Makoto Hasebe (Wolfsburg/GER), Hajime Hosogai (Bayer Leverkusen/GER), Hideto Takahashi (FC Tokyo)
Forwards: Ryoichi Maeda (Jubilo Iwata), Shinji Okazaki (Stuttgart/GER), Mike Havenaar (Vitesse Arnhem/NED), Takashi Inui (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United/ENG), Hiroshi Kiyotake (Nuremberg/GER), Yuki Otsu (VVV Venlo/NED)