TOKYO — Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic opted for experience in naming his first squad since taking over as coach of the national football team.
Halilhodzic, who was just appointed to the job a week ago, selected Milan forward Keisuke Honda and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Shinji Kagawa to the 31-man squad that will play home friendlies against Tunisia on March 27 and Uzbekistan four days later.
"I want there to be a lot of competition on this team," Halilhodzic said.
The 62-year-old Bosnian took over from Javier Aguirre after the Mexican was fired last month amid a match-fixing scandal.
Other European-based players named to the squad include Inter Milan defender Yuto Nagatomo and Mainz forward Shinji Okazaki.
Halilhodzic, who guided Algeria to the last 16 of the World Cup last year, has spent his first week in Japan attending J-League games.
One notable omission was Gamba captain Yasuhito Endo, Japan's all-time leader with 152 appearances.
Defenders: Hiroki Mizumoto (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan), Tomoaki Makino (Urawa Reds), Masato Morishige (FC Tokyo), Kosuke Ota (FC Tokyo), Atsuto Uchida (Schalke), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Hiroki Fujiharu (Gamba Osaka), Hiroki Sakai (Hannover), Gotoku Sakai (Stuttgart), Gen Shoji (Kashima Antlers)
Midfielders: Yasuyuki Konno (Gamba Osaka), Makoto Hasebe (Eintracht Frankfurt), Toshihiro Aoyama (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund), Hiroshi Kiyotake (Hannover), Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka), Gaku Shibasaki (Kashima Antlers)
Forwards: Shinji Okazaki (Mainz), Keisuke Honda (AC Milan), Shinzo Koroki (Urawa Reds), Yu Kobayashi (Kawasaki Frontale), Takashi Inui (Eintracht Frankfurt), Kensuke Nagai (Nagoya Grampus), Yuya Osako (Cologne), Takashi Usami (Gamba Osaka), Yoshinori Muto (FC Tokyo).