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  • May 23, 2012
  • • 11:15
  • • Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, Fukuroi
  • Referee: A. Bin Abdul Bashir
  • • Attendance: 35000

Japan - Azerbaijan Preview: Honda expected to make first international start in nine months

Japan - Azerbaijan Preview: Honda expected to make first international start in nine months

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The CSKA Moscow attacker's return to international play will be a highlight of Wednesday's friendly as Alberto Zaccheroni considers his World Cup qualifier options



Uchida, Komano, Makino, Nagatomo
Hasebe, Hosogai
Honda, Nakamura, Kagawa

Medvedev, Abishov, Shukurov, Levin
Mammadov, Chertoganov, Nabiyev, Nadirov
Aliyev, Ozkara

In what could be generously described as an unusual match-up, Japan hosts 109th-ranked Azerbaijan on Wednesday night in a warm-up for the Samurai Blue ahead of their World Cup qualifiers against Oman, Jordan and Australia in June.

The opponents, chosen by Alberto Zaccheroni for a similar level to Japan's two West Asian opponents, will serve as a foil for a Japan squad that will feature a mix of regulars, returnees and newcomers. The most anticipated player is undoubtedly Keisuke Honda, expected to make his international return after a nine-month absence. Ryo Miyaichi may also have a chance to shine after completing his loan spell at Bolton. The crowd at Ecopa Stadium will expect goals aplenty, and the hosts should be able to deliver in what should be an entertaining display.

  • Japan have not lost an international friendly since June 2010 in a pre-World Cup warm-up against Ivory Coast.
  • Out of 13 J-League players selected by Zaccheroni, four (Shuichi Gonda, Yuhei Tokunaga, Aria Jasuru Hasegawa (pictured), and Hideto Takahashi) come from FC Tokyo, the most of any team.
  • This match marks the first time that Gamba Osaka centre-back Yasuyuki Konno has been omitted from Zaccheroni's squad.
  • Azerbaijan won their last match, a February friendly in Dubai against India, by a 3-0 score.
  • Manager Berti Vogts won the World Cup playing for West Germany in 1974, then managed Germany to their 1996 Euro championship.
  • Azerbaijan managed a shock home win over Turkey in Euro 2012 qualifying while they also managed a draw with Belgium in Baku. However on the road they lost all five of their games.

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