Nagatomo ponders Asian Cup snub

TOKYO - Japan defender Yuto Nagatomo could snub his country for next month's Asian Cup by choosing to help his struggling Italian club Cesena instead.

With his side struggling in Serie A, Nagatomo has raised the possibility of skipping the January 7-29 tournament in Qatar.

"Obviously I always want to play my part for Japan but (Cesena) are in a difficult situation," the 24-year-old left back told Friday's Nikkan Sports newspaper.

"It's not a decision I can take alone."

Cesena are currently languishing in 18th place in Italy's top flight, two off the bottom of the table.

Nagatomo joined Cesena from J-League side FC Tokyo after this year's World Cup in South Africa and is a regular fixture for the side, as well as for Japan.

Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni has flown to Europe to negotiate the release of his top players and will name his final 23-man squad by the end of the month.

Most of the Japanese side who reached the last 16 of the World Cup are expected to play at the Asian Cup, including the bulk of their Europe-based contingent.

Japan finished fourth at the last Asian Cup in 2007 where Iraq recorded a stunning victory for the war-torn nation.