Tokyo. Shinji Kagawa will remain frozen out of his favoured central attacking role for Japan despite a flying start in the position for Manchester United, coach Alberto Zaccheroni has indicated.
Kagawa scored on his Old Trafford debut in last week’s 3-2 win over Fulham. But despite positive reviews, he is likely to play on the left when Japan face Iraq in 2014 World Cup qualifying on Sept. 11.
Blocking his path is CSKA Moscow dangerman Keisuke Honda, Zaccheroni’s preferred choice to play in the hole behind the forwards.
“Honda is an important player I always call up. I think his best position is behind the front line. This is his position,” said the Italian. “It is good that his condition is good while others are still not at their best.”
With four goals in Japan’s three latest qualifiers, it’s hard to argue against Honda. The marauding bottle blond has also scored three and set up two more in CSKA Moscow’s seven games so far this season.
But the arrangement does not entirely suit Kagawa, who has previously grumbled at being moved aside.
“I’m not a player who creates chances there. I could not move in further,” he said, after failing to get amongst the goals in Japan’s 3-0 win over Oman in June.
Zaccheroni’s men take on an Iraq led by Brazilian legend Zico, who was at the helm in Japan for four years from 2002 and is well respected for his understanding of the Japanese game.
“Iraq are favored to reach the World Cup from this group and I’m sure they are determined to do well against Japan,” said Zaccheroni. “Zico has international experience and knows Japan very well.
“Their players are highly skilled and it was obvious to me when I saw them in the third round of qualifiers that they have potential.”
A squad of 23 players, including 12 Europe-based players led by Standard Liege goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima and Stuttgart striker Shinji Okazaki, have been called up for the game at Saitama.
Asian Cup-holders Japan lead Group B with two wins and a draw for seven points. Australia, 2007 Asian champions Iraq, and Oman have two points each ahead of Jordan on one point.
Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima (Standard Liege/BEL), Shusaku Nishikawa (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Shuichi Gonda (FC Tokyo)
Defenders: Yuichi Komano (Jubilo Iwata), Daiki Iwamasa (Kashima Antlers), Masahiko Inoha (Vissel Kobe), Hiroki Mizumoto (Hiroshima), Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan/ITA), Maya Yoshida (Southampton/ENG), Hiroki Sakai (Hannover/GER), Gotoku Sakai (Stuttgart/GER)
Midfielders: Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka), Kengo Nakamura (Kawasaki Frontale), Makoto Hasebe (Wolfsburg/GER), Hajime Hosogai (Bayer Leverkusen/GER), Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow/RUS), Hideto Takahashi (Tokyo)
Forwards: Ryoichi Maeda (Iwata), Shinji Okazaki (Stuttgart/GER), Mike Havenaar (Vitesse Arnhem/NED), Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United/ENG), Hiroshi Kiyotake (Nuremberg/GER), Genki Haraguchi (Urawa Red Diamonds)