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HOME > SAMURAI BLUE > ASIAN QUALIFIERS - ROAD TO RUSSIA [6/13] TOP > NEWS > Halilhodzic names Kato, newcomers for World Cup Qualifiers Final Round squad ahead of Iraq clash in June


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Halilhodzic names Kato, newcomers for World Cup Qualifiers Final Round squad ahead of Iraq clash in June

26 May 2017

Halilhodzic names Kato, newcomers for World Cup Qualifiers Final Round squad ahead of Iraq clash in June

SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) coach Vahid HALILHODZIC announced his squad on Thursday 25 May for the KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2017 against Syria to be held on Wednesday 7 June in Tokyo and the 2018 FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifiers Final Round against Iraq to be held on Tuesday 13 June in Teheran. The Japan boss selected three newly called-up players in his 25-man squad. "I will strictly require a win over Iraq and hopefully we can finish the final round beautifully," Halilhodzic expressed his goals.

He changed eight players from the lineup for March's qualifying match, calling up defenders UGAJIN Tomoya (Urawa Red Diamonds) and MIURA Genta (Gamba Osaka) as well as Bulgaria-based midfielder KATO Kohei (PFC Beroe Stara Zagora). Last summer's Rio de Janeiro Olympic squad goalkeeper NAKAMURA Kosuke (Kashiwa Reysol) was selected for the first time since the goalkeeper camp last October and also the first match for actual matches.

Forward INUI Takashi (SD Eibar) made a comeback to the team, the first since March 2015. After being sidelined from the national team as well as his club due to injury in the UAE match last March, midfielder KONNO Yasuyuki (Gamba Osaka) was also named along with forward KUBO Yuya (KAA Gent), midfielder KAGAWA Shinji (Borussia Dortmund) and forward HONDA Keisuke (AC Milan).

In the final qualifying round where 12 teams playing in two groups, Japan have three more matches remaining. While standing on top of group B after seven fixtures, they level with second-placed Saudi Arabia on points but stay ahead on goal difference. They also sit three points clear of third-placed Australia. Japan lead fifth-placed Iraq by seven points. Top two teams of the group will claim the World Cup spot without further conditions, while third-placed team will look for the remaining spot through playoffs.

"We can make a big advance with a win over Iraq," said Japan coach, "Turf condition is bad, and physical conditioning will be key. We need players who can win the ball aggressively."

Halilhodzic added on newcomer Kato, "He can aggressively win the ball and build up the game. He can control the defence as well. I wanted to see him play with my own eyes." And the Bosnian expressed his expectation on Konno as well, "He is good in defence and in the air. We need a player like him. I heard he was already back with his club and working in training. I hope he can make it in the Iraq match."

The Japan team will start their camp on Sunday 28 May in Chiba. Europe-based players, who already finished their season, will assemble first, and J.League players will join them on Monday 5 June. The day after the friendly against Syria, the squad will head for neutral Iran where they face Iraq.

"Only three matches remaining in the final qualifying round. Every single camp will be crucial. The football season is different depending on players, but we will be well prepared in training," said Halilhodzic. He also quoted on Syria, the opponents on Wednesday 7, "They are similar to Iraq and physically strong and aggressive. Their duel on defence is very hard. It will be a great test."

Japan beat Iraq 2-1 with a late winner by midfielder YAMAGUCHI Hotaru (Cerezo Osaka) in the third fixture of the final round last October. Syria stand in fourth in Group A, trailing third-placed Uzbekistan by four points to grab the playoff spot.

Coach's Comment

Vahid HALILHODZIC, Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
With the Asian final qualifiers coming to an end, every single camp will be crucial. Not every player finished their season yet and J.League sides are still underway. We will be well prepared. We can make a big advance with a win over Iraq in the final qualifiers.

You always see home team perform very well as the UAE did. Iraq are not as skilled as the UAE but they must come aggressively at their home. The ground condition is not good at the venue, so I'm asking for improvement. But it might be difficult. You shouldn’t be able to play a lot with short passes. It may be with aerial battles and long balls. We need to win the second ball and get to have players who can aggressively win the ball. We will try to eliminate the opponents’ strength and attack their weakness. To do that, I chose players who are willing to fight and have an ability to win the ball. And we need players 100% prepared. I chose players who perform better at this moment.

Iraq put us at bay for some stretches in the last matchup, and we had the similar stretches against Saudi Arabia and Australia. Physical condition is key in the next one. We will need to stay fresh and physically active in the last 15 minutes. I want my players to go out with a spirit to go all out for the national team.

We started with a loss in the final qualifying round but are now in a better situation. But you can’t let your guard down like "We won through the final round before, so we can make it again this time." Thinking about the last match to be held in Saudi Arabia (in September), we've got to win as early as possible to get the spot. To do that, this coming camp is more important than the word literally means. I will strictly require a win over Iraq and hopefully we can finish the final round beautifully.

JFA-TV (Japanese version only)


Sun. 28 May PM Training
Mon. 29 May AM/PM Training
Tue. 30 May AM/PM Training
Wed. 31 May AM/PM Training
Thu. 1 June AM/PM Training
Fri. 2 June AM/PM Training
Sat. 3 June AM/PM Training
Sun. 4 June AM Training
Mon. 5 June PM Training *
Tue. 6 June 17:00
Official Conference (Tokyo Stadium)
Official Training (Tokyo Stadium)*
Wed. 7 June 19:25 KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2017
vs Syria National Team (Tokyo Stadium)
Thu. 8 June AM Training
Fri. 9 June PM Training
Sat. 10 June PM Training *
Sun. 11 June PM Training *
Mon. 12 June TBC Official Conference
Official Training (PAS Stadium) *
Tue. 13 June 17:00 ASIAN QUALIFIERS
vs Iraq National Team (PAS Stadium)

*Local Time
*The schedule is subject to change due to the team condition, the weather, etc.
*Open to the media for the first 15min.


2017-6-7 (Wed.) 19:25 kick off (estimated time)
SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) vs Syria National Team
Tokyo / Tokyo Stadium

More Information


2017-6-13 (Tue.) 16:55 kick off (estimated time)
[Japan Time: 2017-6-13 (Tue.) 21:25 kick off (estimated time)]
Iraq National Team vs SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
Iran / PAS Stadium

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