Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Japan's World Cup campaign set to kick-off

Japan's World Cup campaign set to kick-off.
Japan begin their quest to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa when they meet Thailand at Saitama Stadium tonight.

The Blue Samurai warmed up for the fixture by recording a 0-0 draw with Chile at the National Stadium in Tokyo on January 26, before beating Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 at the same venue four days later.

Koji Yamase came off the bench to score twice against Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the Yokohama F. Marinos star is not expected to start against Thailand.

19-year-old Kashima Antlers youngster Atsuto Uchida is widely expected to feature in the run-on side in place of experienced Gamba Osaka defender Akira Kaji.

Coach Takeshi Okada has also named a 35-man interim squad for the upcoming East Asian Championship in China.

Kashima midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara was a notable omission, while there was a surprise recall for Alessandro Santos, who recently rejoined Urawa Reds after spending a season at Austrian club Salzburg.

Okada looks set to become embroiled in a club versus country row with Urawa Reds coach Holger Osieck. The German-born Osieck has asked for the club's new star signing Naohiro Takahara to be excused from the East Asian Championship, with another long J-League campaign set to kick-off in March.

Japan kick-off their East Asian Championship campaign against DPR Korea on February 17, before they take on hosts China and finish off with a clash against arch-rivals Korea Republic.

Pan-Pacific Championship

The inaugural Pan-Pacific Championship gets under way in Hawaii on February 20, with J-League side Gamba Osaka set to take on David Beckham's Los Angeles Galaxy, in a match that is sure to generate plenty of interest in Japan.

The other clash sees fellow MLS side Houston Dynamo take on either Sydney FC or Queensland Roar, with the outcome of the A-League finals series set to determine which Australian team makes the trip to Hawaii.

The respective winners of the two matches meet in the tournament final on February 23.

Japanese Players Overseas

Shunsuke Nakamura and Koki Mizuno : Celtic

Shunsuke Nakamura has returned from a knee injury that plagued him towards the end of 2007 and was instrumental in Celtic's recent 5-1 Scottish Cup thrashing of Kilmarnock at Rugby Park. New signing Koki Mizuno was not included in the squad having only just completed his move from JEF United.

Tsuneyasu Miyamoto : Salzburg

With Alessandro Santos having rejoined former club Urawa Reds, ex-Gamba Osaka defender Tsuneyasu Miyamoto is now the sole Japanese player at Austrian club Salzburg. Miyamoto is currently injured and is unlikely to feature in the Salzburg starting eleven when the Austrian Bundesliga resumes on February 15.

Daisuke Matsui : Le Mans

Former Kyoto Sanga FC man Daisuke Matsui is enjoying a stellar season in the French Ligue 1, and he scored the winner in Le Mans' 1-0 win over glamour side AS Monaco last weekend.

Shinji Ono : VfL Bochum

Injury-plagued former Japan international Shinji Ono has joined Bundesliga club VfL Bochum from 2006 J-League champions Urawa Reds, and the ex-international made a dream start, coming off the bench to set up both goals in Bochum's come-from-behind win over high fliers Werder Bremen at the weekend.

Naoya Kikuchi : Carl Zeiss Jena

Former Jubilo Iwata star Naoya Kikuchi injured ligaments in training shortly after signing for 2.Bundesliga strugglers Carl Zeiss Jena. The midfielder, who is serving a year long domestic ban after his arrest for having sex with a 15-year-old-school girl last year, is expected to miss between four to six weeks of action for his new club.

Copyright © Michael Tuckerman &

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