Japan (National Football)

Japan World Cup Roster 2014: Full 23-Man Squad and Starting 11 Projections

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - NOVEMBER 19: Shinji Kagawa of Japan looks on during the international friendly match between Belgium and Japan at King Badouin stadium on November 19, 2013 in Brussels, Belgium.  (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)
Christof Koepsel/Getty Images
Nick AkermanFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2014

Japan have named their 23-man squad for this year's World Cup in Brazil, with coach Alberto Zaccheroni springing a couple of surprises ahead of the summer's festivities.

The Japanese suffered just one loss during their final group participation heading into the tournament. A 2-1 loss away at Jordan, plus two 1-1 draws with Australia, were the only blemishes on an otherwise solid record for a side that can be expected to remain competitive during the showpiece event.

Zaccheroni's side are preparing to take on Greece, Colombia and the Ivory Coast in a favourable draw. Although each of these teams will pose real danger to Japan's chances of making the knockout stages, the Asian representatives must be pleased to have escaped a clash with one of the pre-tournament favourites.

Let's take a look at the full squad, as revealed by Reuters and via Yahoo! Eurosport:

Japan World Cup Squad
GKEiji KawashimaStandard Liege
GKShusaku NishikawaUrawa Reds
GKShuichi GondaFC Tokyo
DEFMasato MorishigeFC Tokyo
DEFYasuyuki KonnoGamba Osaka
DEFYuto NagatomoInter Milan
DEFMaya YoshidaSouthampton
DEFMasahiko InohaJubilo Iwata
DEFAtsuto UchidaSchalke
DEFHiroki SakaiHannover
DEFGotoku SakaiStuttgart
MIDYasuhito EndoGamba Osaka
MIDKeisuke HondaAC Milan
MIDShinji KagawaManchester United
MIDMakoto HasebeNuremberg
MIDHiroshi KiyotakeNuremberg
MIDHotaru YamaguchiCerezo Osaka
MIDToshihiro AoyamaSanfrecce Hiroshima
MIDManabu SaitoYokohama F. Marinos
ATTShinji OkazakiMainz
ATTYoichiro KakitaniCerezo Osaka
ATTYuya Osako1860 Munich
ATTYoshito OkuboKawasaki Frontale
Yahoo! Eurosport
Japan World Cup Starting XI Projection
GKEiji Kawashima
RBAtsuto Uchida
CBMasato Morishige
CBMaya Yoshida
LBYuto Nagatomo
CMMakoto Hasebe
CMYasuhito Endo
LMShinji Kagawa
RMHiroshi Kiyotake
CAMKeisuke Honda
STYoichiro Kakitani
Yahoo! Eurosport.


Who's In, Who's Out?

GEORGE, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 20:  Yoshito Okubo looks on at a Japan training session during the FIFA 2010 World Cup at Outeniqua Stadium on June 20, 2010 in George, South Africa.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Perhaps the biggest surprise of Zaccheroni's squad is the recall of Kawasaki forward Yoshito Okubo. The experienced 31-year-old, who previously represented Mallorca and Wolfsburg in Europe, has certainly made the final squad on merit.

Okubo's eight goals in 12 J-League appearances, per WhoScored.com, have forced Zaccheroni into recalling the player who hasn't represented his nation in two years, noted by Reuters via Yahoo! Eurosport:

The stocky striker had featured only once during the Italian's four years in charge, a 45 minute outing in a 2012 friendly win over Iceland, despite playing all four matches at the last World Cup in South Africa under previous coach Takeshi Okada.

Toshihiro Aoyama of Sanfrecce Hiroshima will be another surprise attendee to the tournament. He has three appearances for the national side under his belt, per FIFA, and ousts the vastly more experienced Hajime Hosogai, who currently plays in the Bundesliga with Hertha Berlin.

Zaccheroni's squad features 12 players who represent clubs outside of Japan. Impressively, the intriguing selection is crammed full of individuals who are both experienced and looking to progress on the world stage.

Players such as Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda and Yuto Nagatomo will need to draw upon their European experiences if Japan are to advance through their group. It is extremely healthy for the J-League that almost half the squad is currently based in the national league, as scouts will undoubtedly watch on with intent.


Lineup Outlook

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - NOVEMBER 19: Hiroshi Kiyotake of Japan runs with the ball during the international friendly match between Belgium and Japan at King Badouin stadium on November 19, 2013 in Brussels, Belgium.  (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)
Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

Japan's starting XI works best when Zaccheroni can get his side playing a speedy game that is based on ball retention. This is a side that includes considerable attacking threats through the likes of Kagawa and Hiroshi Kiyotake, both of whom will be key to maintaining possession and providing Japan with width.

Kagawa tweeted his delight at being included and outlined optimism surrounding the camp:

Honda, who will sit behind Japan's main striker, is just as vital as Kagawa. The experienced AC Milan star joins the Manchester United man as the team's best passer, but importantly, Honda's set-piece skills could push Japan beyond their opponents in what are sure to be extremely competitive matches. Honda is the type of individual who can deliver a pinpoint corner or scream a free-kick into the top corner, indicating his form is pivotal.

The work-rate of Nagatomo and Atsuto Uchida will help define Japan's shape. When Kagawa and Kiyotake drift in-field, which is likely to happen against teams who pack the centre, these two need to bomb up the flanks to provide a quick attacking outlet. They must also ensure no space is left in behind when Japan's opponents launch a counter-attack, highlighting the need for excellent cardio.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - NOVEMBER 19:  Keisuke Honda of Japan runs with the ball during the international friendly match between Belgium and Japan at King Badouin stadium on November 19, 2013 in Brussels, Belgium.  (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)
Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

Such a relentless output is going to be majorly difficult in the testing Brazil conditions. Zaccheroni's squad is versatile and has visited testing locations such as Jordan and Iran in recent times, but with many arriving on the back of the European league season, it will need to find extra reserves if Japan's speedy offensive style is to shine through.

Even so, Zaccheroni's men shouldn't be taken lightly. This is an accomplished, spirited and highly technical side that can spring a run to the tournament's latter stages with the right game plan. Individuals such as Kagawa will be key, but at their best, Japan's selection is greater than the sum of its parts.


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