Okazaki and Kagawa miss out as Japan name 2019 Asian Cup squad
The tournament's most successful team will be aiming to win a fifth title in the UAE next year
Southampton centre back Maya Yoshida was named in Japan's 23-man squad for the 2019 Asian Cup on Wednesday, but Leicester City striker Shinji Okazaki and Borussia Dortmund playmaker Shinji Kagawa were both omitted.
Okazaki, 32, is Japan's third-highest scorer but has failed to find the net for either club or country in a year, while 29-year-old Kagawa is on the fringes at Dortmund, making just four appearances for the German club this season.
Manager Hajime Moriyasu has recalled Galatasaray defender Yuto Nagatomo and Hannover striker Takuma Asano, who both sat out Japan's 4-0 victory over Kyrgyzstan in their final warm-up match due to injury.
Red Bull Salzburg's Takumi Minamino will offer creativity in midfield, where he is likely to be supported by Portimonense's Shoya Nakajima and Groningen's Ritsu Doan.
Moriyasu suggested he had been tempted to turn to veterans like Kagawa, but said he needed to pick players in their best form.
"Of course, I wanted help from experienced players, those who went to the Russian World Cup and those who have led Japan for years," Moriyasu told a press conference.
"Many of the players whom we selected at this time have only limited experiences. I have chosen them with hopes that they would take the ownership of the team and build the national team themselves and fight for the title."
However, the young squad will be supported by Werder Bremen striker Yuya Osako and Galatasaray defender Yuto Nagatomo, both veterans of past World Cups.
Japan, who won the Asian Cup in 1992, 2000, 2004 and 2011, have been drawn in Group F and kick off their campaign against Turkmenistan on January 9. Oman and Uzbekistan are the other teams in the group.
"Japan's national team did not win the title last time. We will reclaim the Asian Cup and bring back the title," Moriyasu said.
The Asian Cup, which has been expanded to include 24 teams, will be held in the UAE from January 5 to February 1.
Updated: December 12, 2018 01:58 PM