Japan’s squad announcement for the 2018 FIFA World Cup could be the most dramatic the country’s national team has experienced in 20 years, according to Nikkan Sports.
The newspaper reported on Friday that following the mid-May announcement of Japan’s 35-player provisional registration list, head coach Vahid Halilhodzic will field an oversized squad for the Samurai Blue’s May 30 send-off match at International Stadium Yokohama before determining his final 23-man selection for Russia.
As Nikkan notes, this would become the first ‘two-stage’ selection process for the Japan squad since 1998, when Takeshi Okada famously dropped star striker Kazuyoshi Miura along with two other players just one week ahead of the country’s World Cup debut in France. Miura, who at 51 years old still plays in the J.League for J2 side Yokohama FC, is considered perhaps the greatest Japanese player to have never participated in a World Cup.
The news raises the spectre of a similarly controversial scenario for Halilhodzic, who has clashed with Japanese media on multiple occasions since assuming his current post in 2015.
While Japan’s opponents for the May 30 match have yet to be announced, the JFA have arranged pre-World Cup friendlies with Switzerland and Paraguay on June 8 and 12 respectively ahead of their June 19 group stage opener against Colombia.