Japan on Wednesday sidelined captain Maya Yoshida and other World Cup veterans for home friendlies against Uruguay and Colombia as coach Hajime Moriyasu looks to the future.
Yuto Nagatomo, who became the first Japanese player to appear in four World Cups in Qatar, was also omitted along with winger Hiroki Sakai, midfielder Gaku Shibasaki and goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda.
Moriyasu, who led Japan to win the World Cup over Germany and Spain before losing on penalties to Croatia in the round of 16, told reporters that the veterans had been “a great presence” for Japan but he wanted new players.
“I know what they can do for us,” he said of the absent players, including Yoshida, who has played in 126 caps and now plays in Germany for Schalke.
“We need to bring in new players and see how well they can do for us.”
Moriyasu called up four new players, including striker Keito Nakamura, who plays in Austria for LASK.
But there was no room for Celtic pairing Kyogo Furuhashi and Reo Hatate, who also missed out on Japan’s World Cup squad and have been in top form this season in Scotland.
Brighton winger Kaoru Mitoma was included along with Eintracht Frankfurt’s Daichi Kamada and Real Sociedad’s Takefusa Kubo.
“The idea is that I want a deeper and stronger group of players to draw from so that we can build the strongest Japan team possible,” Moriyasu said.
Japan plays Uruguay in Tokyo on March 24 and Colombia in Osaka four days later.