Japan surprises with recall of veteran striker

[WORLD CUP 2014] Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni included in his 23-player roster for the World Cup 31-year-old forward Yoshito Okubo, who hasn't played for the Blue Samurai in two years, and three defensive players struggling with injuries.

Okubo, who has appeared only once for the Italian coach during his four-year tenure, led the J-League in scoring last season and has scored eight this season for Kawasaki Frontale.

"He's got experience, personality and a nose for the goal," said Zaccheroni of Okubo, who played all four games for Japan at the 2010 World Cup. “He's got experience and quality and while he may be over 30, he hasn't shown signs of slowing down physically. He is also unpredictable.”

Captain Makoto Hasebe, a defensive midfielder who had a knee operation in February, returned to action for the first time in five months last weekend for Nuremberg. Schalke 04 right back Atsuto Uchida has been plagued by a thigh injury since February and Southampton central defender Maya Yoshida has not appeared in an English Premier League game since February because of a knee injury.

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The 12 European-based players on the roster include AC Milan's Keisuke Honda and Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa, two key players coming off disappointing club seasons.

“Shinji is an impact player for Japan,” Zaccheroni. He always does the job asked. Honda, we know, has the character and power to grab the team by the scruff of the neck. We hope he can do the same again."



Japan Roster (23 Players)
Goalkeepeers: Shuichi Gonda (Tokyo), Eiji Kawashima (Standard Liege/BEL), Shusaku Nishikawa (Urawa Reds).
Defenders: Masahiko Inoha (Jubilo Iwata), Yasuyuki Konno (Gamba Osaka), Masato Morishige (Tokyo), Yuto Nagatomo (Inter/ITA), Gotoku Sakai (VFB Stuttgart/GER), Hiroki Sakai (Hannover), Atsuto Uchida (Schalke 04/GER), Maya Yoshida (Southampton/ENG).
Midfielders: Toshihiro Aoyama (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka), Makoto Hasebe (Nuremberg/GER), Keisuke Honda (Milan/ITA), Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United/ENG), Yoichiro Kakitani (Cerezo Osaka), Hiroshi Kiyotake (Nuremberg), Manabu Saito (Yokohama F Marinos), Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka)
Forwards: Shinji Okazaki (Mainz), Yoshito Okubo (Kawasaki Frontale), Yuya Osako (1860 Munich/GER).
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