Minamino heads Japan squad for South Korea friendly

TOKYO (AFP) – Southampton’s Takumi Minamino and eight other Europe-based players were Thursday named in Japan’s squad for next week’s friendly against South Korea in Yokohama.

Minamino, who has scored two goals in six games since joining Southampton on loan from Liverpool in January, is part of a 23-man squad to take on the Koreans on March 25 in Japan’s first home game since the coronavirus pandemic began.

South Korea have named a full-strength squad that includes Tottenham Hotspur star Son Heung-min.

But club manager Jose Mourinho has cast doubt over whether he will be released for the game, after the forward limped out of Sunday’s north London derby defeat to Arsenal with a hamstring injury.

Japan are looking for a meaningful workout against top-level Asian opposition before they resume their World Cup qualifying campaign against Mongolia on March 30. The fact it is their first friendly against arch-rivals South Korea in 10 years adds an edge.

“People watch Japan v Korea games with a different feeling from other games,” said Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu. “We want to be ready to play with spirit.”

Japan won 3-0 when the two teams last played a friendly in August 2011, but they have met four times in international competition since then. The two nations co-hosted the World Cup in 2002.

Moriyasu handed eight players their first international call-ups, all from the domestic J-League.

“They’re still inexperienced, but being part of the national team set-up will be an incentive for them when they go back to their clubs,” said the manager.

“I hope they can use this experience when they go back to their clubs and go on to improve from there.”

Japan’s under-24 Olympic team, which Moriyasu also manages, will face Argentina in two home friendlies on March 26 and 29.

Moriyasu is set to announce his squad for those two games on Friday.