Penpix of Japan's squad for World Cup finals

Penpix of Japan's squad for World Cup finals

TOKYO - Japan's squad for the World Cup finals comprises the following 23 players:

Goalkeepers:

Eiji Kawashima (Standard Liege) Age 31; 54 caps. After making his debut against North Korea in 2008, Kawashima established himself as the Blue Samurai's top keeper with a fine tournament at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Plying his trade in Belgium's top flight with Standard Liege, he kept a clean sheet to help Japan beat Australia in the 2011 Asian Cup final.

Shusaku Nishikawa (Urawa Reds) Age 27; 12 caps. Long regarded as heir apparent to Kawashima, the Urawa Reds keeper was a member of Japan's Olympic team at the 2008 Beijing Games and made his full international debut the following year in a 2011 Asian Cup qualifier against Hong Kong.

Shuichi Gonda (FC Tokyo) Age 25; 2 caps. Regularly represented Japan at Under-20 and Under-23 levels before making his debut in 2010 against Yemen, but has been frustrated by Kawashima's iron grip on the No.1 spot. Promise was recognised with selection as Japan's first-choice keeper at the 2012 London Olympics, when Japan finished fourth.

Defenders:

Masato Morishige (FC Tokyo) Age 27; 8 caps. The versatile Morishige can play at centreback or in midfield. Played for his country at the Beijing Olympics before making his debut for the national team at the East Asian Cup last year, playing in the final match as Japan beat hosts South Korea 2-1 to lift the trophy.

Yasuyuki Konno (Gamba Osaka) Age 31; 79 caps. Solid central defender who can play any position in a back four and also as a defensive midfielder. Good in the air but not guaranteed a starting spot.

Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan) Age 27; 68 caps. Starting left back who represents Japan's most potent weapon down the flank with his marauding forward runs. Fan favourite for club and country due to his inexhaustible stamina, Nagatomo is considered a key player for the Asian champions.

Maya Yoshida (Southampton) Age 25; 39 caps. Tall central defensive stalwart who has been a consistent performer in Japan's back line after quickly adapting to the physical nature of the Premier League since joining Southampton in 2012. Virtually guaranteed starter in what will be his first World Cup finals.

Masahiko Inoha (Jubilo Iwata) Age 28; 21 caps. A versatile defender who like Konno can slot in anywhere along the back line and has also enjoyed success as a holding midfielder. Made his full debut at the successful 2011 Asian Cup campaign in Qatar but has found it difficult to hold down a first team place in the national side since.

Atsuto Uchida (Schalke 04) Age 26; 66 caps. First-choice right back who has plied his trade in the Bundesliga since 2010. Fiercely determined, hard working and attack minded, Uchida will get forward as much as Nagatomo on the opposite flank and will expect to make an impact after being named in the squad for the last World Cup without getting on the pitch.

Hiroki Sakai (Hannover 96) Age 24; 16 caps. A product of the Kashiwa Reysol youth programme, Sakai is another of Japan's many attacking right backs who was named the J-League's Best Young Player in 2011. Joined Hannover a year later but has found opportunities limited at international level due to fierce competition for the right back berth.

Gotoku Sakai (VfB Stuttgart) Age 23; 12 caps. Attacking right back with a complete package of skills, Sakai moved to Stuttgart on a permanent basis in 2013 after a successful loan period with the German club. Considered an emerging star of Japanese football but likely to remain behind Uchida in the pecking order in Brazil.

Midfielders:

Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka) Age 34; 142 caps. Considered the quiet man of the team, he is renowned for his passing ability and is a set-piece specialist with a dipping free kick. Won the Asian Footballer of the Year award in 2009 and became his country's highest capped player in 2012.

Keisuke Honda (AC Milan) Age 27 (june 13 will be 28); 54 caps. After the retirements of Hidetoshi Nakata and Shunsuke Nakamura much of the attack has been built around the bleach-blonde attacking midfielder. Player of the tournament in Japan's 2011 Asian Cup triumph, he slotted the penalty that ensured the Blue Samurai were the first team to qualify for Brazil. Moved to Italy from CSKA Moscow in January but has struggled to impose himself in Serie A.

Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United) Age 25; 55 caps. The former Borussia Dortmund player joined Manchester United in 2012 but has struggled for game time. The livewire attacking midfielder prefers to be employed just behind the strikers but Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni has moved him to wide left, which has caused some friction.

Makoto Hasebe (FC Nuremberg) Age 30; 78 caps. The defensive midfielder led Japan on the field at the 2010 World Cup when goalkeeper and captain Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi fell to third choice under coach Takeshi Okada. Transferred from the Urawa Reds to the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg in 2008 and signed for Nuremberg in 2013 but has been hampered by a knee injury and could struggle to be fit in time for Brazil.

Hiroshi Kiyotake (FC Nuremberg) Age 24; 25 caps. An attacking player, Kiyotake is comfortable on either flank though prefers to play on the right. Unlike some of his more illustrious compatriots in Europe he is playing regularly for Nuremberg in the Bundesliga and media reports said he was a transfer target for Premier League side Aston Villa last season.

Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka) Age 23; 10 caps. Another versatile midfielder who can play further forward or break up attacks in a more defensive position. Made a significant breakthrough at the East Asian Cup where he was named player of the tournament after three strong displays.

Toshihiro Aoyama (Sanfrecce Hiroshima) Age 28; 4 caps. A combative midfielder who was somewhat of a surprise inclusion in Zaccheroni's 23 ahead of Hertha Berlinn's Hajime Hosogai. Famed for scoring a stunning 75 metre strike for Sanfrecce in a J-League match against Yokohama F. Marinos two years ago.

Manabu Saito (Yokohama F. Marinos) Age 24; 4 caps. A diminutive attacking midfielder who is likely to play backup for Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda in the playmaking roles. Very quick and talented dribbler, Saito made his debut for Japan in the East Asian Cup and scored a well taken goal in the 3-2 victory over Australia on his second appearance.

Forwards:

Shinji Okazaki (Mainz) Age 28; 74 caps. The most experienced of Japan's forwards, Okazaki made a name for himself in 2009 when he scored 15 goals in 16 national team matches. The Mainz forward has been in prolific form in the Bundesliga and Japan will depend heavily on him to convert the chances created by the likes of Honda and Kagawa.

Yoichiro Kakitani (Cerezo Osaka) Age 24; 10 caps. Kakitani plays for Cerezo Osaka, which produced Kagawa and it was the 2013 season for his club that got him into reckoning for the national side. The highly rated 24-year-old scored 24 goals for his club last year and has been among the goals in the current season too.

Yuya Osako (TSV Munich 1860) Age 24; 7 caps. The striker was impressive and scored a goal in Japan's 2-2 draw in a friendly against the Netherlands last year. To coach Zaccheroni's delight, he moved from Japan's Kashima Antlers to Germany to join Munich 1860 in the January transfer window to boost his chances of making the World Cup squad.

Yoshito Okubo (Kawasaki Frontlae) Age 31 (will be 32 on June 9); 55 caps.The surprise inclusion in the World Cup party. Okubo has been in sparkling form for Kawasaki, where he was J-League top scorer last year and has continued to find the back of the net with regularity this term. Despite his form he was long overlooked by Zaccheroni, who has only given him a 45-minute run out against Iceland in 2012 during the Italian's four years in charge. Played all four games at the last World Cup in South Africa as Japan reached the last 16.

 

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