World Cup can wait for ambitious Okada

TOKYO - Japan coach Takeshi Okada has put his bold plan to take this year's World Cup by storm on hold in a bid to win a first East Asian title.

The "Blue Samurai" have finished runners-up in the previous three East Asian championships and Okada is determined to put the record straight in next month's tournament on home soil.

"Japan have never won this title so we want to make sure we win it at home this time," Okada told Wednesday's Japanese media.

"At the same time it's an important opportunity to improve ahead of the World Cup."

Okada will not call on his Europe-based players for the four-team East Asian competition which runs from February 6-14 and also involves South Korea, China and Hong Kong.

He did recall 2009 J-League player of the year Mitsuo Ogasawara for his squad for the February 2 warm-up match against Venezuela in Oita.

The Kashima Antlers midfielder has been out of the international set-up since playing at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

"I didn't even know the squad was being named today," Ogasawara told reporters. "It's an honour to be selected."

Okada said: "It will be an important game for us to gauge where we are before the East Asian championships, where I will be expecting a lot more from the team."

The Japan coach has raised eyebrows by publicly targeting a semi-final spot at this year's World Cup in South Africa despite being drawn alongside Netherlands, Cameroon and Denmark.

The Japanese have never won a World Cup match on foreign soil.