The Japan Football Association has announced its final 23-man squad for the upcoming World Cup it is co-hosting with South Korea and there were a few surprises.
Going with veterans who have had little playing time recently under Japan's national colors, Japan's French coach Philippe Troussier selected forward Masashi Nakayama of the J-League's Jubilo Iwata, and Kashima Antlers defender Yutaka Akita. The 34-year-old Nakayama and the 31-year-old Akita were members of Japan's team at the 1998 World Cup in France. Yokohama F Marinos playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura did not get picked, despite an impressive performance in Japan's 3-3 draw against Honduras on May 2. Naohiro Takahara, who played briefly for Boca Juniors, was left off of the team, mainly because of a blocked artery in his lung.
As expected, European-based stars Hidetoshi Nakata of Italian side Parma and Shinji Ono of Dutch first division club Feyenoord were also selected, along with Brazilian-born midfielder Alessandro Santos of Shimizu. Santos obtained Japanese nationality late last year and just made his debut for the national team in March.
In goal, Japan went with experience, selecting Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi of Portsmouth, another member of the 1998 team. Japan plays Sweden in a final tune-up match on May 25. In World Cup Group H play, Japan will face Belgium, Russia and Tunisia.