Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic on Monday announced his squad for the Samurai Blue’s upcoming matches, including a friendly against Iraq on June 11 and a World Cup qualifier against Singapore on June 16.
The Serbian-born Frenchman’s list of 25 players included two, Gamba Osaka defender Daiki Niwa and Kawasaki Frontale midfielder Shogo Taniguchi, who received their first call-up to the senior squad.
But as the coach explained to reporters at the Hotel New Otani in Makuhari, near the site of a planned national training centre, his task is far from complete.
“Our 23 members are in this group,” Halilhodzic said, referring to the two players who will be cut from the squad before the Saitama Stadium encounter against Singapore.
“Nobody’s place in the national team is guaranteed, and I want to let all of the players know that they have a chance.”
The former Algeria coach was not hesitant to discuss the status of goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima or defender Gotoku Sakai, both of whom received call-ups despite struggling to find playing time at their clubs. The latter is expected to fill the spot usually occupied by Schalke defender Atsuto Uchida, who continues to recover from injury.
“[Sakai] is the best right back we have,” Halilhodzic said. “If we find someone better tomorrow, we’ll call him up immediately.”
Japan squad for Iraq & Singapore matches
Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima, Shusaku Nishikawa, Shuichi Gonda, Masaaki Higashiguchi
Defenders: Daiki Niwa, Gotoku Sakai, Hiroki Sakai, Kosuke Ota, Yuto Nagatomo, Maya Yoshida, Tomoaki Makino, Masato Morishige
Midfielders: Gaku Shibasaki, Makoto Hasebe, Shogo Taniguchi, Hotaru Yamaguchi, Shinji Kagawa, Hiroshi Kiyotake
Forwards: Takashi Usami, Yoshinori Muto, Shinji Okazaki, Yuya Osako, Kengo Kawamata, Genki Haraguchi, Keisuke Honda