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Saturday, Nov. 6, 2004

No call-up for Kazu as Zico names squad

Japan coach Zico scrapped his controversial plan Friday to call up several ex-internationals including striker Kazuyoshi Miura and named an under-strength squad for the national team's upcoming final World Cup qualifier against Singapore.

The Brazilian picked an 18-man squad missing all of his European-based first-team regulars while Cerezo Osaka striker Yoshito Okubo earned a recall for the Nov. 17 clash at Saitama Stadium 2002.

With Japan already through to the final round of qualifiers for the 2006 finals in Germany, the match against Singapore has been rendered fairly meaningless.

Zico wanted to call up the likes of Miura, Masashi Nakayama and Yutaka Akita as a token of appreciation for their contributions to the national team but said he had changed his mind after a number of fringe players told him they wanted to be given a chance to play.

"I haven't changed my feelings about calling up players that have made a big contribution to the national team. I still hope to give them a chance to play in the future," said Zico.

"But there are some players that have been in the squad for the Kirin Cup and the Asian Cup and World Cup qualifiers that haven't been given much of a chance.

"Those players have always been ready and willing to do well for the national team even if they only get a minute or two of playing time. They want to play as much as possible and that's why I have decided on this squad."

Zico's initial plan to go back to the future was widely criticized and representatives of J. League clubs, who wanted the coach to use the match as a stepping stone for next year and try out some of the younger and less experienced players, were strongly opposed to the idea.

The Japan Football Association also received a written request from the Asian Football Confederation to field its strongest team but Zico insists that had no influence on his decision to leave out the veterans.

"What right does the AFC have to tell me who I can and can't select? If these people want to say such things why don't they give up their own jobs and take over as Japan coach.

"These (veteran) players are still active and playing at a high level in the J. League so I think the AFC is being disrespectful toward both the players and myself."

The Brazilian said he decided not to call up Fiorentina midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata and West Bromwich Albion's Junichi Inamoto to give them more time to get back to their best after injury layoffs.



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