Veteran midfielder Shinji Ono is making a case for selection to Japan's World Cup squad with some impressive performances for J-League leader Shimizu S-Pulse.
Ono had two assists in Wednesday's 4-2 win over Kyoto, a result that gave Shimizu a four-point lead atop the standings after 10 games.
The former Asian Player of the Year, who helped Feyenoord win the UEFA Cup in 2002, is back in Japan after playing for German side Bochum in 2009.
Japan coach Takeshi Okada will announce his World Cup squad on Monday. Because of his age, the 30-year-old Ono wasn't considered a leading candidate to make the team. But his recent play, coupled with Shimizu's surprising unbeaten start to the season, could change that.
"I'm not expecting to be selected," Ono told Thursday's Nikkan Sports newspaper. "All I want is that the players who do make it give it their all."
Ono has worked well with Shimizu teammate Shinji Okazaki, a forward who is almost assured of being selected to the World Cup squad after scoring 15 international goals in 2009.
If selected, Ono would be a calming influence on some of Japan's younger players having played in three World Cups for his country.
Known for his vision, technique and superb passing, Ono has played 56 games for Japan and scored six goals.
While other midfielders like Shunsuke Nakamura, Yasuhito Endo and Keisuke Honda are virtually assured of making the team, Ono is certain to have caught Okada's attention.
He was on a provisional list of 80 World Cup candidates the Japan Football Association released earlier this year.