Japan omit Ogasawara for Serbia friendly

TOKYO - Japan coach Takeshi Okada has axed 2009 J-League player of the year Mitsuo Ogasawara for next month's World Cup warm-up against Serbia.

The Kashima Antlers midfielder was recalled to the Japan squad in January after an absence of more than three years but upset Okada by criticising the international set-up.

With Shunsuke Nakamura back in Japan with Yokohama F-Marinos and also named by Okada on Monday in a 20-man squad for the April 7 game in Osaka, Ogasawara's World Cup chances now looks slim.

Nakamura's Yokohama team-mate Koji Yamase was also recalled, adding salt to Ogasawara's wounds for the friendly with a rugged and technically gifted Serbia side also bound for South Africa.

Okada insisted it did not spell disaster for players harbouring World Cup ambitions but, with Europe-based players not available, those not included will fear the worst.

"I've chosen some players who haven't had a real opportunity so far," Okada told reporters. "It doesn't mean those not selected have no chance of going to the World Cup."

Okada's selection of 21-year-old Fukuoka University striker Kensuke Nagai will also do little to boost Ogasawara's confidence in the run-up to the World Cup.

"I think we could use Nagai's explosive speed in the last 10 minutes of games," said Okada.

Japan face World Cup-bound South Korea at home on May 24 before flying to Europe for warm-up matches against England in Austria on May 30 and Ivory Coast in Switzerland on June 4.

The Blue Samurai, who have never won a game at a World Cup tournament on foreign soil, have been drawn against Cameroon, the Netherlands and Denmark in Group E in South Africa.

Japan squad

Goalkeepers - Seigo Narazaki (Nagoya), Eiji Kawashima (Kawasaki)

Defenders - Yuji Nakazawa (Yokohama), Yuichi Komano (Iwata), Yasuyuki Konno (FC Tokyo), Yuzo Kurihara (Yokohama), Yuhei Tokunaga (FC Tokyo) Yuto Nagatomo (FC Tokyo), Atsuto Uchida (Kashima)

Midfielders - Shunsuke Nakamura (Yokohama), Junichi Inamoto (Kawasaki), Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka), Naohiro Ishikawa (FC Tokyo), Yuki Abe (Urawa), Koji Yamase (Yokohama)

Forwards - Keiji Tamada (Nagoya), Kisho Yano (Niigata), Shinji Okazaki (Shimizu), Shinzo Koroki (Kashima), Kensuke Nagai (Fukuoka University)

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