Japan right back Atsuto Uchida will sit out next month’s Asian Cup in deference to his injured right knee, the Japan Football Association announced on Sunday evening.
The Schalke right back has struggled with his fitness since sustaining the injury in February, which has affected his play over the course of the year.
The decision to replace Uchida in the squad comes after several rounds of meetings between officials representing his parent club and the JFA, who according to Hochi have concluded that the winter break will best be spent allowing the 26-year-old to recover.
Uchida will be replaced in the lineup by centre-back Naomichi Ueda, who plays for Kashima Antlers in the J-League. The 20-year-old, who has been selected for Japan’s under-age national teams in recent years, will be looking to make his senior debut.
“[Playing in] the Asian Cup would be a true test of my abilities as a player,” Ueda, who was originally listed as a support member for the team, said in a statement issued through Antlers. “Being able to experience an international tournament will be a tremendous plus for me, and I look forward to earning the opportunity to prove myself against my experienced teammates.”
The replacement call-up will mean that four of Japan’s nine defenders will have five or fewer international appearances going into the Asian Cup, which kicks off on January 9 in Australia.