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Japan aim to grow by battling giants
Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni believes upcoming friendlies against France and Brazil will show the Blue Samurai the way to go as he dreams of presenting them as serious contenders at the 2014 World Cup.
The Italian tactician called up 23 regulars, including 13 Europe-based players such as Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa and CSKA Moscow playmaker Keisuke Honda to face France, whom Japan have never beaten.
Japan, four-time Asian champions, will play Les Bleus at the Stade de France in Paris on October 12 and Brazil in Wrocklaw, Poland, four days later.
Striker Ryo Miyaichi, on loan to Wigan Athletic from Arsenal, was also in the squad, which was announced on Thursday.
"By playing against strong teams that lead Europe and South America, I hope we can gain valuable experience of international-level battles that will help us grow further," Zaccheroni said in a press release.
"There are more players I wanted to call up who are not in the squad. That I have so many options shows how high the quality of Japanese football is now."
Japan, aiming for a fifth straight World Cup since their debut at France 1998, are leading Asian Group B with 10 points from three wins and one draw. They will play their next qualifier away to Oman on November 14.
Zaccheroni, who coached AC Milan and other Serie-A sides, took over the Blue Samurai after they reached the last 16 at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
After piloting Japan to a record fourth Asian Cup title in January last year, he said he wanted to help Japan qualify for Brazil 2014 and "fight as a team capable of vying for the top spot there".
"I got the impression that France are a team well-balanced between technical and physical aspects," he said in the press release.
"They have made a wonderful start under the stewardship of (Didier) Deschamps. Together with Paris Saint-Germain's strong showing, French football itself appears to be regaining an important position in Europe," Zaccheroni said.
"As for Brazil, they are a team so rich with ideas and high-quality techniques that there is no need to say anything more about them."
France have been undefeated in five games against Japan. In their last meeting, at the 2003 Confederations Cup in Saint-Etienne, they beat Japan 2-1.
Japan have also yet to beat the Brazilians at full international level. But they held Brazil to a 2-2 draw at the Confederations Cup in Germany in June 2005.
In their last encounter, Brazil came from behind to overwhelm Japan 4-1 in the group stage of the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima (Standard Liege/BEL), Shusaku Nishikawa (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Shuichi Gonda (FC Tokyo)
Defenders: Yuichi Komano (Jubilo Iwata), Yasuyuki Konno (Gamba Osaka) Yuzo Kurihara (Yokohama Marinos), Masahiko Inoha (Vissel Kobe), Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan/ITA), Atsuto Uchida (Schalke/GER), Maya Yoshida (Southampton/ENG), Hiroki Sakai (Hannover/GER)
Midfielders: Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka), Kengo Nakamura (Kawasaki Frontale), Makoto Hasebe (Wolfsburg/GER), Hajime Hosogai (Bayer Leverkusen/BER), Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow/RUS), Hideto Takahashi (FC Tokyo)
Forwards: Ryoichi Maeda (Jubilo Iwata), Mike Havenaar (Vitesse Arnhem/NED), Takashi Inui (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United/ENG), Hiroshi Kiyotake (Nuremberg/GER), Ryo Miyaichi (Wigan Athletic/ENG)
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