J.League stars ready to represent Asia at Asian Cup

J.League stars ready to represent Asia at Asian Cup

The Japan national team is full of J.League stars present and past for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, with five members of the squad currently playing in the Japanese top-flight and the other 21 developed in the domestic pyramid.

But Japan are not the only country counting on current J.League players and past alums in their quest to conquer the continent.

South Korea, who will be aiming for a first Asian Cup title since 1960, have Shonan Bellmare’s Song Bum-keun in their team. The 26-year-old is coming off a terrific debut season at Bellmare and could be his country’s starting goalkeeper down the line, with both of the other options in the team on the other side of 30 years old.

Australia are one of the continent’s best teams, having won the Asian Cup in 2015, to go along with another appearance in the final and two trips to the quarter-finals in their four tournaments since joining the AFC.

Mitchell Duke is in the Socceroos team for the Asian Cup, having just helped Machida Zelvia to the Meiji Yasuda J2 League title and their first-ever promotion to the top flight. He brings 11 goals for Australia to the tournament, where he is expected to be a major attacking threat for his country. Thomas Deng is also in the squad, having contributed to Albirex Niigata's promotion effort in 2022 and their impressive 2023 J1 return campaign.

Thailand are heading to Qatar with big hopes anchored by Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo’s Supachok Sarachat. He figures to be a key force in the final third after scoring seven times in J1 this season. Theerathon Bunmathan, who played at Yokohama F·Marinos and Vissel Kobe, will captain Thailand as the War Elephants look to build upon getting to the knockout stages in the 2019 Asian Cup.

Elsewhere, Indonesia are back in the Asian Cup for the first time since 2007 and will feature Pratama Arhan, who has turned out for Tokyo Verdy the past two seasons.

The AFC's top prize for national teams kicks off on Friday in Qatar, with the Japan national team set to face off with Vietnam on Sunday.