Samurai Blue Asian Cup spotlight: Seiya Maikuma

Samurai Blue Asian Cup spotlight: Seiya Maikuma

Japan are heading to the 2023 AFC Asian Cup in search of a record fifth continental crown and, as always, they’re doing it with a team of J.Leaguers past and present. All 26 players began their professional careers is the domestic league, with five of them still plying their trade for Japanese clubs.

One of them is Seiya Maikuma, the Cerezo Osaka man who has come on strong in the last year to book his ticket to Qatar with the Samurai Blue.

Maikuma had never been capped by Japan until September, when manager Hajime Moriyasu called him in for two high-profile friendlies against Germany and Türkiye. After a strong 45 minutes in a victory against Türkiye, Maikuma was handed another start the following month against Canada and then started two of the Samurai Blue’s next three matches leading into the Asian Cup.

It’s no surprise to see Maikuma make such a quick leap in the Japan ranks considering how well he’s played for Cerezo, where he’s established himself as arguably the Meiji Yasuda J1 League’s top right back.

Maikuma was named to the J1 Best Eleven for 2023, a well-deserved honor for a truly do-it-all defender. His positioning highlights his versatility as he can defend deep, press, interchange with the right winger or even tuck in upon occasion. He generated tons of shots in a Cerezo team that needed him to be every bit as good as he was and now Moriyasu has tapped him to bring that same dynamism to the Samurai Blue.

Moriyasu spent much of the fall alternating between Maikuma and Yukinari Sugawara at right back so it’s not entirely clear which of the two is first choice, but it reasons that both will see action at the Asian Cup.

It was only a few months ago that Maikuma had never played for his country and now he’s set to feature at the Asian Cup. It takes quite the string of performances to make such a leap, but Maikuma put in standout showing after standout showing for all of 2023 and now he’s kicking off 2024 with the Samurai Blue in the hunt for continental glory.