Head coach Vahid Halilhodzic of Japan National Team recently announced his roster for the upcoming two matches against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Thailand as part of the final round of 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification later this month.
The 25-man squad will face the UAE on Thursday, March 23 in Al Ain and Thailand on Tuesday, March 28 at Saitama Stadium 2002.
The squad announcement sees the return of midfielders Yojiro Takahagi (FC Tokyo) and Yasuyuki Konno (Gamba Osaka), as well as the presence of familiar faces such as midfielders Makoto Hasebe (Eintracht Frankfurt), Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund), and forward Keisuke Honda (AC Milan).
Speaking before the UAE clash in Al Ain, Halilhodzic said: “We are expected to play with big pressure in a unique environment. We also need to stay patient without being provoked by the opponents. Mental toughness and experience are important.”
“We have to show everything we have, never lose our poise and play without fear,” added Halilhodzic.
In order to qualify automatically, teams need to finish at either one of the top two places in the 6-team group. Currently, Japan have 10 points and are standing at the second place in Group B, trailing Saudi Arabia who are leading only on the goal difference. However, both Australia, at third and the UAE at fourth, are closing in with nine points.
Japan team to face UAE and Thailand
Goalkeepers: Shusaku Nishikawa (Urawa Red Diamonds), Eiji Kawashima (FC Metz), Akihiro Hayashi (FC Tokyo)
Defenders: Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Masato Morishige (FC T0kyo), Gōtoku Sakai (Hamburg), Hiroki Sakai (Marseille), Tomoaki Makino (Urawa Red Diamonds), Gen Shōji (Kashima Antlers), Naomichi Ueda (Kashima Antlers)
Midfielders: Makoto Hasebe (Eintracht Frankfurt), Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka), Yasuyuki Konno (Gamba Osaka), Yojiro Takahagi (FC Tokyo), Shu Kurata (Gamba Osaka), Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund), Hiroshi Kiyotake (Cerezo Osaka)
Forwards: Keisuke Honda (AC Milan), Takuma Asano (Stuttgart), Genki Haraguchi (Hertha Berlin), Takashi Usami (Augsburg), Shinji Okazaki (Leicester City), Yuya Osako (Koln), Yuya Kubo (Gent)