Under-fire Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic called up big guns Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa on Thursday for the World Cup qualifiers against minnows Cambodia and Afghanistan.
The AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielders headline a 23-man squad for next Thursday’s home game against Cambodia in the second round of qualifying.
The Blue Samurai, still without a win in four games under the Franco-Bosnian Halilhodzic, then travel to neutral venue Iran to play Afghanistan on September 8.
“I have high hopes that Honda and Kagawa will perform and make decisive moves,” Halilhodzic told a press conference.
Defenders Maya Yoshida from Southampton and Yuto Nagatomo of Inter Milan also got the call as Japan look to end their drought under Halilhodzic.
Japan were held to an embarrassing 0-0 home draw against tiny Singapore in the World Cup qualifiers in June, and had two draws and a loss at this month’s East Asian Cup in China.
“In my football career, this is the first time that I have not won in four games,” Halilhodzic said.
“After the Singapore game, I thought a lot. Players performed with quality and created decisive opportunities. Defence was also solid,” he said.
“We cannot say excuses again. We must win. We must score goals. We must play games that satisfy us all,” added the coach.
Halilhodzic, who led Algeria to the knockout stages of last year’s World Cup, took over after Mexican Javier Aguirre was sacked following the team’s early exit from the Asian Cup in January.
Japan is in Group E with Afghanistan, Cambodia, Singapore and Syria in the qualifiers.
Goalkeepers – Masaaki Higashiguchi (Gamba Osaka), Shusaku Nishikawa (Urawa Reds), Yuji Rokutan (Vegalta Sendai)
Defenders – Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Daiki Niwa (Gamba Osaka), Tomoaki Makino (Urawa Reds), Masato Morishige (FC Tokyo), Hiroki Sakai (Hannover), Gotoku Sakai (Hamburg), Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan), Koki Yonekura (Gamba Osaka).
Midfielders – Makoto Hasebe (Eintracht Frankfurt), Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka), Wataru Endo (Shonan Bellmare), Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund), Genki Haraguchi (Hertha Berlin), Gaku Shibasaki (Kashima Antlers).
Forwards – Keisuke Honda (AC Milan), Kensuke Nagai (Nagoya Grampus), Takashi Usami (Gamba Osaka), Yoshinori Muto (Mainz), Shinji Okazaki (Leicester City), Shinzo Koroki (Urawa Reds).
– Agence France-Presse