Analysis: Japan coach picks squad 'full of firepower'

Asian football expert John Duerden has all you need to know about Japan's 27-man squad announced overnight for their critical upcoming clashes with Australia and Saudi Arabia.

Japan squad named for Caltex Socceroos WCQ

Japan have named an experienced squad for the crucial FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Australia on August 31 and Saudi Arabia five days later, one that is full of firepower.

Under-pressure coach Vahid Halilhodzic announced his 27-man pick, which will be reduced to 23 over the next few days, and it is full of European expertise.

Fifteen of the 27 play their club football in Europe with Keisuke Honda recently leaving AC Milan for Pachuca in Mexico. 'The Emperor' scored on his debut to give Halilhodzic some much-needed good news.

PRESSURE ON JAPAN COACH

There have been reports in the Tokyo media that the Bosnian boss will be given his marching orders if the Caltex Socceroos head back home with a point or more. 

The reports have been dismissed by the Japan FA but they only add to the pressure ahead of the big game.

“I hear the recent criticism directed my way and it puts pressure on me but this is the kind of situation I like,” said Halilhodzic as he unveiled the squad to assembled media. 

“The more I come under attack and the more criticism I face, the more determined I am to respond.”

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The coach emphasised that his team is still top of Group B, a point ahead of Australia and Saudi Arabia. 

Japan will, qualify for a sixth successive World Cup with a win at Saitama Stadium. 

Anything else and they fly to Saudi Arabia needing a result if they are to avoid dropping down to third and the play-off route.

That may be why the coach has selected no less than nine forwards in his squad, though will be happy to welcome back regular captain and midfielder Makoto Hasebe after injury.

More good news is that as well as Honda scoring in Mexico, Shinji Okazaki is also busy. 

Shinji Okazaki

The striker has played two, scored two for Leicester City in England so far this English Premier League season and has looked very sharp indeed.

Then there's Genki Haraguchi, the Hertha Berlin star who has scored four goals in qualification so far, including the opener in the 1-1 draw between the two teams in Melbourne a few months ago. 

Despite the firepower Halilhodzic has called upon, he has not summoned some of the J.League's most in form strikers.

OMISSIONS FROM J-LEAGUE

Shinzo Koroki is the leading goalscorer with 15 so far this season. 

The Urawa Reds forward has played for the national team before but failed to find the target. 

At 31, his omission is not a major surprise though Yu Kobayashi has been in dangerous form for Kawasaki Frontale as has Mu Kanazaki, star of the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup with Kashima Antlers.

It remains to be seen whether Halilhodzic regrets the domestic omissions. 

Honda, Kagawa and Okazaki have not been quite as influential for the national team as they were four years ago when Japan clinched a place in Brazil 2014 with a 1-1 draw with Australia thanks to a very late penalty.

This time, such a result (common in this fixture in past qualification campaigns) would suit the Caltex Socceroos more than the Samurai Blue. 

Needing to win (or draw) at home to Thailand is preferable to having to do the same in Saudi Arabia.

Japan want to get the job finished at home.