Japan national team manager, Vahid Halihodzic, announced a 26-man roster for the upcoming friendlies against Mali and Ukraine, which will be played this march in Liege, Belgium, and the biggest surprise was the absence of Takuma Asano and Yosuke Ideguchi. Cultural Leonesa midfielder Ideguchi and Stuttgart striker Asano were the heroes of the nation in the World Cup qualifiers, with both of them scoring goals in the 2-0 World Cup qualifying win against Australia last August. The Bosnian manager warned both players that they needed to force their way into their club teams as soon as possible, if they wanted to secure their World Cup spots this summer.
Both players have been struggling for minutes at their respective clubs. Asano is yet to appear in Bundesliga this year, while Ideguchi last played for Leonesa on 18th February. Halihodzic stated that it made him sad to see that these two remarkable players were not playing and, even though they had been stars during the qualifying section, reiterating that neither of the two would pack their bags for Russia this summer if things continued the way they were.
The biggest frustration for the Samurai Blue boss is that some regular players are not getting game time at their clubs, and some don’t even make it to the bench, and this could cause some serious problems before the final 23-man World Cup squad is announced. Maya Yoshida, Shinji Kagawa and Hiroshi Kiyotake are out injured, which is why FC Tokyo defender Masato Morishige was recalled after a year of absence. Shinji Okazaki is also missing out, Halihodzic wanted to go with Kobayashi, Sugimoto and Osako this time, because they score more goals. Portimonense forward Shoya Nakajima earned his first call-up thanks to his impressive displays this season, scoring nine goals in 22 appearances for the Portuguese side this season, and Japan manager wanted to take a look at him before making his final decision