Newly-appointed Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic’s reign began on Thursday with a dramatically expanded squad ahead of the team’s upcoming friendlies against Tunisia and Uzbekistan.
The list of 31 players includes Gamba Osaka striker Takashi Usami, who received a call-up for the first time since November 2012 and is still awaiting his first senior cap. His fellow Gamba teammate, defender Hiroki Fujiharu, could also make his international debut, while national team veteran Yasuhito Endo was notably absent from the list.
Names unfamiliar to recent Samurai Blue followers include a pair of Urawa Reds players in defender Tomoaki Makino and striker Shinzo Koroki. Makino last represented Japan in the 2013 East Asian Cup, while Koroki’s most recent appearance was in a 2011 friendly against Peru while still a member of Kashima Antlers.
Injured Japan regulars such as Schalke right back Atsuto Uchida and Inter defender Yuto Nagatomo have also been included on the list so that Halilhodzic, who has been tasked with qualifying Japan for their sixth straight World Cup, can meet with them and evaluate their fitness.
In addition to the list of 31 names, a backup list of 12 players including Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder Yojiro Takahagi was also announced.
Japan squad for March 2015 friendlies:
GK: Eiji Kawashima, Masaaki Higashiguchi, Shusaku Nishikawa, Shuichi Gonda
DF: Gotoku Sakai, Maya Yoshida, Hiroki Sakai, Masato Morishige, Kosuke Ota, Hiroki Mizumoto, Tomoaki Makino, Hiroki Fujiharu, Gen Shoji, Atsuto Uchida, Yuto Nagatomo
MF: Makoto Hasebe, Shinji Kagawa, Toshihiro Aoyama, Gaku Shibasaki, Hiroshi Kiyotake, Hotaru Yamaguchi, Yasuyuki Konno
FW: Keisuke Honda, Shinji Okazaki, Takashi Inui, Kensuke Nagai, Yuya Osako, Yoshinori Muto, Yu Kobayashi, Shinzo Koroki, Takashi Usami