Samurai Blue Asian Cup spotlight: Taishi Brandon Nozawa

Samurai Blue Asian Cup spotlight: Taishi Brandon Nozawa

Japan is taking a team of J.League products to the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, with five players still starring in the domestic league.

Arguably the most unique story of the five, and of Japan’s entire team, is Taishi Brandon Nozawa.

Nozawa enters the Asian Cup as Japan’s lone player to have never been capped by his country. The FC Tokyo man is an extraordinarily promising goalkeeper with extensive youth national team experience, but he is as green as they come at the senior level.

To earn a place on the roster for the continental championship with so little experience requires the manager to have great belief in the underlying talent, and Nozawa has plenty of it. He’s an agile and athletic shot stopper with no fear coming off his line and the ability to read the game well beyond his years.

That is how he went to Iwate Grulla Morioka on loan in 2021 at just 18 years old and helped them to promotion. The following season, he was excellent again for the club in J2. Before he even turned 20, he had two years of ultra competitive football under his belt in promotion and relegation fights, where he stood out.

When he returned from loan last season, Nozawa earned 18 appearances for F.C.Tokyo. He held his own in J1 at just 20 years old and displayed all of his immense potential, then allowed just seven goals in eight J.League YBC Levain Cup contests, helping his club into the knockout stages.

This Asian Cup may be a little too soon for Nozawa to see the field, but he will get a look at what continental championship football looks like up close and if he continues to shine for FC Tokyo then you can bet on seeing him in a Samurai Blue shirt for years to come.