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Thursday, March 13, 2003

Zico eyes Kawaguchi for national team

Japan coach Zico is set to give a surprise call-up to Portsmouth goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi for the national team's upcoming friendlies in the United States.

Kawaguchi was kept on the bench by former Japan coach Philippe Troussier at last summer's World Cup finals and has not played a league match for English first-division side Pompey for more than a year.

But Zico, who shortly names a 23-man squad for the matches against Uruguay and the U.S., said Wednesday he believes the former Yokohama F Marinos stopper can still prove his worth on the international stage.

"I think he still has a lot to offer the national team," Zico told reporters.

"He's still part of the setup (at Portsmouth) and is playing regularly in the reserves, so it's not like match fitness is a problem," he said.

Nagoya Grampus Eight goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki played in both of Japan's matches under Zico against Jamaica and Argentina last year, with Kashima Antlers' Hitoshi Sogahata, who is currently nursing an injured right shoulder, on the bench.

Japan will play Uruguay in San Diego on March 26 before taking on the U.S. in Seattle three days later.

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