Japan head coach Alberto Zaccheroni has announced his 23-man squad for the friendly against Latvia at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
Despite this being just a friendly match, Zaccheroni has named a full-strength squad for the fixture against the Scandinavian side to maximise preparations for the 2014 World Cup qualifier against Jordan.
“For our first match of the year, The J-league hasn't started yet and some of our players will only be returning to Japan with one day to spare. This will be an important year for Japan, and our first goal is to qualify for the World Cup. We'd like to do that by beating Jordan in March,” said 59-year-old at the press conference.
“Last year we had two matches, this year we only have the friendly, we also only have a small amount of time and want to make it count.”
“We want to finish qualifications as quick as possible so we want our players to play bravely and balanced and make sure of our tactics.”
Having called up only four midfielders, Zaccheroni hinted at a possibly defensively mindset against Latvia.
“We need two DMFs and called up four; that should be enough. We called up a lot of utility players,” he said.
The head coach also explained his decision to select mainly European-based players such as Inter Milan's Nagamoto, citing performance as a key factor in his selections.
One of those players, Dutch-based Yuki Otsu, could be in line for a debut after starring for the Blue Samurais Under-23s in the 2012 Olympics in London where he scored three goals and propelled Japan to a fourth-place finish.
“He (Ostu) had a great Olympics and can play on either side or as a central forward. We'd like to have him available. I've wanted to call him up before but he wasn't playing at his club, and this season he's been playing well,” Zaccheroni said of the 22-year-old.
Despite European-based players making the bulk of the Zaccheroni’s squad and having younger players going abroad instead of staying in the J-League, the head coach dismissed fears this would weaken the domestic league.
“The J league may look like its dropping in quality in the short term but in the long run it's a good thing,” he added.
“I think it's good that players are inspired to play well in Japan and try to achieve in Europe. Serie A was once called the best league in the world and the world's best players wanted to play there, but as that changed fewer foreigner came to Italy and more Italians had a chance to perform.”
Japan will play Latvia on February 6.
Goalkeepers: Hayashi Takuto, Kawashima Eji, Gonda Shuichi
Defenders: Konno Yasuyuki, Inoha Masahiko, Mizumoto Hiroki, Nagamoto Yuto, Uchida Atsuto, Yoshida Maya, Sakai Hiroki, Sakai Gotoku,
Midfielderrs: Endo Yasuhito, Hasebe Makoto, Hosogai Hajime, Takahashi Hideto
Forwards: Maeda Ryoichi, Okazaki Shinji, Honda Keisuke, Havenaar Mike, Inui Takashi, Kagawa Shinji, Kiyotake Hiroshi, Otsu Yuki