Monaco attacker Takumi Minamino was recalled to the Japan national team squad Wednesday for the first time since last year's Qatar World Cup, ahead of home international friendlies against Canada and Tunisia this month.

Manager Hajime Moriyasu also named Huddersfield defender Yuta Nakayama as well as goalkeepers Daiya Maekawa of Vissel Kobe and Zion Suzuki of Sint-Truiden in his 26-man squad, but the attacking duo of Lazio's Daichi Kamada and Freiburg's Ritsu Doan missed out for conditioning reasons.

Monaco's Takumi Minamino (C) celebrates with his teammates after scoring against Nantes during a French Ligue 1 match at Stade de La Beaujoire-Louis Fonteneau on Aug. 25, 2023. (Getty/Kyodo)

The Samurai Blue had two productive friendly outings in Europe in September, beating Germany 4-1 and Turkey 4-2, with both nations sacking their managers in the aftermath.

Japan, 19th in the FIFA rankings, will take on 44th-ranked Canada at Denka Big Swan Stadium in Niigata on Oct. 13 and 29th-ranked Tunisia at Noevir Stadium in Kobe four days later.

Manager Hajime Moriyasu holds a press conference in Chiba, near Tokyo, on Oct. 4, 2023. (Kyodo)

"It's important to raise our level and gain confidence that we can win against any opponents," Moriyasu told a press conference.

"Canada have players with high ability. Tunisia launch their attacks after holding firm at the back, and that'll also prepare us to compete in Asia."

Japan begin their 2026 World Cup qualification campaign in November with two Asian second-round matches, while the Asian Cup is also around the corner, starting in January.

Moriyasu, meanwhile, also had a word on North Korea, whom his side will face twice at the Asian qualifiers in March, after they resorted to a long list of malicious tackles and misbehavior against Japan's U-22 side during the Asian Games men's football quarterfinals on Sunday in Hangzhou, China.

"I hoped Japanese players wouldn't get injured. I was watching it imagining my team playing them," Moriyasu said. "We cannot control rough play. I hope my players don't get scared and play as usual to start. I'd like to believe referees will be there to protect the players."

One North Korean player raised his fist as if to punch a member of the Japan team staff after demanding a bottle of water. Their players also chased the referees after the final whistle as they lost 2-1, with the winner scored through a penalty.

The Japan Football Association on Tuesday filed an opinion letter along with related footage on North Korea to the Asian Football Confederation, aimed at ensuring the safety of players.


Japan squad:

Goalkeepers: Daiya Maekawa (Vissel Kobe), Keisuke Osako (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Zion Suzuki (Sint-Truiden)

Defenders: Shogo Taniguchi (Al Rayyan), Ko Itakura (Borussia Monchengladbach), Yuta Nakayama (Huddersfield), Koki Machida (Royale Union Saint-Gilloise), Seiya Maikuma (Cerezo Osaka), Takehiro Tomiyasu (Arsenal), Hiroki Ito (Stuttgart), Daiki Hashioka (Sint-Truiden), Yukinari Sugawara (AZ Alkmaar)

Midfielders/Forwards: Wataru Endo (Liverpool), Junya Ito, Keito Nakamura (Reims), Takuma Asano (Bochum), Takumi Minamino (Monaco), Kyogo Furuhashi, Daizen Maeda, Reo Hatate (Celtic), Hidemasa Morita (Sporting Lisbon), Kaoru Mitoma (Brighton), Atsuki Ito (Urawa Reds), Ayase Ueda (Feyenoord), Ao Tanaka (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Takefusa Kubo (Real Sociedad)


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