(Sporting Alert) — Shinji Kagawa starts for Japan in today’s international football friendly game against Serbia at Karadjordije Stadium in the north of Serbia.
The Manchester United midfielder has been struggling to hold down a consistent place in David Moyes’ starting lineup and welcomes to the chance to get some playing minutes under his belt as he continues to work on his fitness.
Also starting today are Keisuke Honda, Shinji Okazaki, Yoichiro Kakitani, Yasuhito Endo and Makoto Hasebe.
Japan has been in good form at home, but head coach Alberto Zaccheroni is hoping to use this game to improve his team’s away form.
“I want our players to show their style of football without any sign of nervousness in front of the supporters of our opponents,” Zaccheroni was quoted as saying on Thursday.
“I am hoping to raise the level of our international experience.”
The last time Japan and Serbia was in April 2010 in Osaka in a World Cup warm-up match, a game the latter won by 3-0 and Zaccheroni, who wasn’t the coach at the time, still believes the Serbians will be tough opponents.
Amongst the starters today for the home side are Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic, Manchester City centerback Matija Nastasic and midfielder Zoran Tosic.
Dejan Stankovic, Nemanja Matic and Filip Djordjevic all start as well today, while Aleksandar Kolarov is on the bench.
“Serbia are a world powerhouse,” Zaccheroni said. “They are strong physically and mentally and have good skills.
“I am interested to see what our players can do against them. We cannot rely on our physical size; we must play to our strengths.”
In their last friendly international, Japan, who have already qualified for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil next summer, beat Ghana 3-1, with Kagawa amongst the goalscorers.