Japan gears up for FIFA World Cup qualifiers with J.LEAGUE stars past and present

Japan gears up for FIFA World Cup qualifiers with J.LEAGUE stars past and present

The third round of AFC qualifying for FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar begins this week, and Japan have called up a slew of J.LEAGUE stars past and present for their matches against Oman and China. With the 12 remaining teams split into two groups, a top two finish in each will qualify teams to the World Cup, while third-place teams will have to go through a playoff to get to Qatar.

The Samurai Blue will be led by the likes of captain Maya Yoshida, who suits up for Sampdoria today but began his career at Nagoya Grampus, and Liverpool’s Takumi Minamino, a Cerezo Osaka product.

In addition to all of the former J.LEAGUE stars, six players currently in the league made the roster for Japan. Vissel Kobe’s Yuya Asako has the most international goals of anyone on the Samurai Blue and Kawasaki Frontale’s Miki Yamane will bring his always-outstanding passing to the team. Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s Sho Sasaki and Urawa Reds’ Hiroki Sakai will be counted on to help the defense, while Shimizu S-Pulse’s Shuichi Gonda and Kosei Tani, who is on loan at Shonan Bellmare from Gamba Osaka, join up in goal.

Notably, manager Hajime Moriyasu named only two outright forwards to the roster. Asako is one of them and he scored eight goals in the second round of qualifying, so he’ll be relied upon again. The other is Kyogo Furuhashi, who led the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE in goals at Vissel before transferring to Scotland’s Celtic FC in July.

Japan were drawn into Group B, where they will be joined by not only Oman and China, but also Australia, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam.