Japan's Honda, Kagawa picked for WCup qualifier
Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa were picked Thursday in Japan's 26-man squad for the 2014 World Cup qualifier against Australia next month.
Japan has 13 points in Group B of Asian qualifying and can clinch its fifth straight World Cup appearance with a draw against Australia on June 4 at Saitama Stadium. Australia is third with six points and needs to do well in its remaining three matches to secure a top-two placing to guarantee qualification for the tournament in Brazil.
Honda has been struggling with injuries and wasn't in the lineup when Japan lost 2-1 at Jordan on March 26 for its first qualifying defeat. Inter Milan defender Yuto Nagatomo has also been dealing with injuries but was included in the squad.
Honda and Stuttgart players Shinji Okazaki and Gotoku Sakai will join the squad the day before the Australia game. Honda is set to play in the Russian Cup final, while Okazaki and Sakai will compete in the German Cup final.
''I am not exactly sure what kind of shape they'll be in as they arrive on different days,'' Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni said. ''Honda is not 100 percent but he is getting better. I'll ask the players coming back from Europe to take it easy for a while.''
In case Honda is not fit, Zaccheroni picked FC Tokyo midfielder Keigo Higashi. Kashiwa Reysol striker Masato Kudo, who has 13 goals in the J-League and the Asian Champions League this season, received his first call-up.
Japan drew 1-1 with Australia in Brisbane last June.
Zaccheroni said he will select a squad after the Australia game for Japan's last World Cup qualifier on June 11 against Iraq in Qatar and then for the June 15-30 Confederations Cup.
Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima (Standard Liege), Shusaku Nishikawa (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Shuichi Gonda (FC Tokyo).
Defenders: Yuichi Komano (Jubilo Iwata), Masahiko Inoha (Jubilo Iwata), Yasuyuki Konno (Gamba Osaka), Yuzo Kurihara (Yokohama F Marinos), Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan), Atsuto Uchida (Schalke), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Hiroki Sakai (Hannover), Gotoku Sakai (Stuttgart).
Midfielders: Yasuhito Endo (Gamba), Kengo Nakamura (Kawasaki Frontale), Makoto Hasebe (Wolfsburg), Hajime Hosogai (Hertha Berlin), Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow), Hideto Takahashi (Tokyo).
Forwards: Ryoichi Maeda (Jubilo), Shinji Okazaki (Stuttgart), Mike Havenaar (Vitesse Arnhem), Takashi Inui (Eintracht Frankfurt), Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United), Hiroshi Kiyotake (Nuremburg), Masato Kudo (Kashiwa Reysol), Keigo Higashi (FC Tokyo).