Japan taking team full of J.League stars present and past to AFC Asian Cup

Japan taking team full of J.League stars present and past to AFC Asian Cup

Hajime Moriyasu has named the Japan team for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar and, once again, it’s full of J.League players present and past.

All 26 players in the Samurai Blue squad either play in the domestic league or began their professional careers in the J.League, as it continues to be the hub for Japanese football development.

Two J.League players slot in at goalkeeper, led by Daiya Maekawa. He just backstopped Vissel Kobe to the J1 title and is a potential option to start for the Samurai Blue between the sticks.

F.C.Tokyo’s Taishi Brandon Nozawa is also in the team despite having no senior team caps, but the 21-year-old’s potential is undeniable.

Rounding out the goalkeepers is Zion Suzuki, who is also 21 and joined Sint-Truiden in Belgium on loan from Urawa Reds in the summer.

Seiya Maikuma is in the Japan back line, completing a rapid rise with the Samurai Blue. The Cerezo Osaka man made his national debut in the fall and could start for Moriyasu in Qatar.

Takehiro Tomiyasu, who began his career at Avispa Fukuoka and now stars at Arsenal, is expected to feature in the Japan defense. Former Kawasaki Frontale teammates Ko Itakura and Shogo Taniguchi should also play big roles, as will Hiroki Ito, the Júbilo Iwata product now playing at VfB Stuttgart in Germany.

The midfield and attack are expected to be especially strong for Japan, led by former Frontale man Kaoru Mitoma, who is one of the Premier League’s most dynamic players at Brighton and Hove Albion. Former F.C.Tokyo man Takefusa Kubo, now starring for Real Sociedad in La Liga, could partner with Mitoma as the creative forces in the Japan side.

Ritsu Doan, who scored twice at the 2022 FIFA World Cup and now plays at Freiburg in Germany, is in the team alongside fellow Gamba Osaka product Keito Nakamura.

Also leading the way is captain Wataru Endo, the Shonan Bellmare and Urawa Reds product who is now playing a central role at Liverpool in the Premier League.

Up front, Kashiwa Reysol wunderkind Mao Hosoya has the chance to break through as a go-to forward for the Samurai Blue after a 13-goal campaign in J1.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima product Takuma Asano and former Yokohama F·Marinos striker Daizen Maeda, both of whom scored at the World Cup, are back for another tournament in the front line as well.

The Samurai Blue have won the Asian championship a record four times and now they embark on their bid for a fifth in terrific form. They’ve won nine straight games by a combined score of 39-5, a stretch that has included victories over teams like Germany, Turkey and Peru.

Japan kick off their Asian Cup on January 14 against Vietnam before taking on Iraq five days later and wrapping up Group D play on January 24 against Indonesia.