Shinji Kagawa’s versatility across attacking midfield and goal-scoring prowess will not be on display at the London 2012 Men’s Olympic football tournament, as he was omitted Thursday from Takashi Sekizuka’s 35-strong provisional squad for the competition as expected.
The senior international, who still qualifies as an Under-23 player, can now focus wholly on completing his transfer to the English Premier League side Manchester United and the forthcoming pre-season, as they attempt to wrest back a title so dramatically won by their neighbors Manchester City on the final day of the 2011/12 campaign.
There is also no place in the roster for the second of Japan’s two internationally acclaimed players, with the Under-23 national team head coach opting to bolster his options in goal and defense rather than seeking to exploit the playmaking talents of Keisuke Honda as one of his three over-age players. Akihiro Hayashi, whose presence and performances between the posts have helped a goal-shy Shimizu S-Pulse to fourth position in the J-League and the joint best defensive record in the division, is one of four goalkeepers named in the squad, the S-Pa stopper’s selection made on the basis that neither Shunsuke Ando or Takuya Masuda are regular choices for their clubs, and ensuring that first-choice Shuichi Gonda benefits from the added competition.
While it had been anticipated that Sekizuka would add two defenders to his party, FC Tokyo right-back Yuhei Tokunaga’s inclusion came as a surprise. Explaining the decision, JFA Technical Director Hiromi Hara cited Tokunaga’s utility in being able to play anywhere along the back line and in defensive midfield, together with his familiarity in front of Gonda for the Gas as reasons why he was a preferred choice.
Maya Yoshida, the VVV-Venlo center-back whose absence at the heart of defense was felt in Tuesday’s 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Australia which ended 1-1, completes the over-age selection. While Yoshida is expected to recover from the knee injury he suffered in the 6-0 victory over Jordan in time for the tournament, Hara added that the provisional list was required to be submitted to FIFA prior to the Jordan match taking place.
Elsewhere in the list, there are places for a number of Japan’s overseas players, as Arsenal teenager Ryo Miyaichi, Stuttgart defender Gotoku Sakai and Hoffenheim creative midfielder Takashi Usami, one of the few players to have sparkled in their otherwise drab preparations in France, make the cut. Hiroshi Kiyotake, who will join the growing influx of young Japanese talent in the Bundesliga at FC Nuremberg following the Olympic Games, is one of 11 midfielders hoping to be on the plane to London.
Sekizuka will whittle his list down to a final squad of 18 players and four reserves prior to Japan’s send-off at the National Stadium on July 11, the Under-23 side featuring in a double-header as they take on New Zealand, while the Nadeshiko women’s team meets Australia.
The men’s team begins its quest for an Olympic medal on July 26 in what should prove their most difficult match of Group D, facing 2011 European Under-21 champions Spain, before further contests with Morocco and Honduras on July 29 and Aug 1 respectively.
The full preliminary squad is as follows ( * denotes over-age player):
|GK||Akihiro Hayashi *||Shimizu S-Pulse|
|GK||Shuichi Gonda||FC Tokyo|
|GK||Takuya Masuda||Sanfrecce Hiroshima|
|GK||Shunsuke Ando||Kawasaki Frontale|
|DF||Yuhei Tokunaga *||FC Tokyo|
|DF||Maya Yoshida *||VVV-Venlo|
|DF||Yuki Saneto||Kawasaki Frontale|
|DF||Yusuke Higa||Yokohama F-Marinos|
|DF||Kazuki Oiwa||JEF United Chiba|
|DF||Kazuya Yamamura||Kashima Antlers|
|DF||Daisuke Suzuki||Albirex Niigata|
|DF||Yutaka Yoshida||Shimizu S-Pulse|
|DF||Hiroki Sakai||Kashiwa Reysol|
|DF||Mizuki Hamada||Urawa Red Diamonds|
|DF||Gotoku Sakai||VfB Stuttgart|
|MF||Kosuke Yamamoto||Júbilo Iwata|
|MF||Hiroshi Kiyotake||Cerezo Osaka|
|MF||Taisuke Muramatsu||Shimizu S-Pulse|
|MF||Kota Mizunuma||Sagan Tosu|
|MF||Keigo Higashi||Omiya Ardija|
|MF||Hotaru Yamaguchi||Cerezo Osaka|
|MF||Takuji Yonemoto||FC Tokyo|
|MF||Akimi Barada||Kashiwa Reysol|
|MF||Takahiro Ogihara||Cerezo Osaka|
|MF||Takashi Usami||1899 Hoffenheim|
|MF||Yoshiaki Takagi||FC Utrecht|
|FW||Kensuke Nagai||Nagoya Grampus|
|FW||Ryohei Yamazaki||Júbilo Iwata|
|FW||Yuki Otsu||Borussia Mönchengladbach|
|FW||Manabu Saito||Yokohama F-Marinos|
|FW||Yuya Osako||Kashima Antlers|
|FW||Hiroshi Ibusuki||Sevilla Atlético|
|FW||Genki Haraguchi||Urawa Red Diamonds|
|FW||Kenyu Sugimoto||Tokyo Verdy|
(Originally appeared at Japan Today)