National soccer team head coach Alberto Zaccheroni named his 25-member squad, which included 18-year-old forward Yuya Kubo, on Feb. 17, for a friendly against Iceland.
The Italian coach, who could not call up foreign-based players for the Feb. 24 match at Osaka's Nagai Stadium, chose five first-time players for the national side--goalkeeper Takuto Hayashi (Vegalta Sendai), midfielders Ryota Isomura (Nagoya Grampus) and Gaku Shibasaki (Kashima Antlers), and forwards Hidetaka Kanazono (Jubilo Iwata) and Kubo (Kyoto Sanga).
"I want to see the young hopefuls up closely," Zaccheroni said. "It also sends a message to other young players. They could be called up for the national side."
"I'm surprised," said Kubo, still in his third year at Ritsumeikan Uji High School. "All I can do is to do my best."
Forwards Yoshito Okubo (Vissel Kobe) and Naohiro Ishikawa (F.C. Tokyo), and Kashiwa Reysol defender Naoya Kondo were also called up for the first time since Zaccheroni took the helm of the Samurai Blue in 2010.
The Iceland friendly is a warm-up match for the Feb. 29 World Cup qualifying game against Uzbekistan.
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