Big wins, tough losses, many lessons as J.League stars prep for Japan's World Cup campaign

Big wins, tough losses, many lessons as J.League stars prep for Japan's World Cup campaign

Japan had a busy June, playing four games against top quality opponents to prepare for this winter's World Cup, with an array of Meiji Yasuda J.League stars present and past starring in a productive month.

The Samurai Blue defeated Paraguay, 4-1, to kick off the run of games, with four former J1 players scoring the goals. Takuma Asano, who came up at Sanfrecce Hiroshima, scored the first before Daichi Kamada, who began his career at Sagan Tosu, doubled the lead. Kaoru Mitoma, who was at Kawasaki Frontale just last season, made it 3-0 and fellow Frontale J.League champion Ao Tanaka wrapped up the win with the final tally.

Japan then took on Brazil in front of a packed National Stadium and put on a strong showing against the famed Seleção. Shimizu S-Pulse goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda was especially outstanding, turning away Brazil time and time again, but a late penalty kick by Neymar proved to be the difference in a 1-0 loss for the Samurai Blue. Despite the disappointment of the defeat, it was an unforgettable night and a composed defensive performance against one of the best teams in the world.

That was followed by another impressive 4-1 victory, this time over Ghana. Kawasaki Frontale’s Miki Yamane scored the opening goal and Mitoma the second. Former F.C.Tokyo starlet Takefusa Kubo extended the lead before 2021 J1 League co-Top Scorer Daizen Maeda put a bow on another dominating win.

It was a difficult end to the four-game stretch, though, as Japan were soundly beaten by Tunisia, who put three second-half goals past the Samurai Blue in a 3-0 loss.

Nevertheless, this was a window about lessons and preparation - and plenty was learned across all four matches, especially the final tilt against Tunisia.

In all, Japan's cast of J.League players past and present acquitted themselves well during a busy stretch and are now looking forward to September’s international window, when they will play their final friendlies before the World Cup.