Japan picked up a win and a draw in the final international window before the 2022 FIFA World Cup and Meiji Yasuda J.League stars current and past led the way for the Samurai Blue.
Japan opened the window with a 2-0 win over the United States. Hajime Moriyasu, a Sanfrecce Hiroshima legend as player and manager, picked a starting lineup that consisted of two current J.League players and nine who made their professional debuts in the domestic league.
Daichi Kamada, who came up at Sagan Tosu and now plays in Germany for Eintracht Frankfurt, scored the opening goal for the Samurai Blue. His clinical finish off a good pass from Kawasaki Frontale product Hidemasa Morita put Japan on the front foot.
The Samurai Blue got their second goal from Kaoru Mitoma, a J.League Best XI selection at Frontale before moving abroad, where he now plays for Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League. Mitoma raced through the U.S. defense, leaving white shirts in his wake before finishing beautifully into the side netting.
While Kamada and Mitoma led the goal scoring effort, all 11 starters and six substitutes worked tirelessly to shut down the U.S. attack. Japan conceded only four shots all game, pressing effectively and defending well at the back as they executed Moriyasu’s game plan to perfection to earn the win.
Japan followed up their win over the U.S. with another strong defensive showing, shutting out Ecuador in a 0-0 draw.
Moriyasu made significant changes to the team for the Ecuador game, but it was still made up entirely of J.League products — including three current J.League players — who helped the Samurai Blue keep their clean sheet.
Frontale captain Shogo Taniguchi took over in the center of defense, while club teammate Miki Yamane slotted in at right back and F.C.Tokyo’s Yuto Nagatomo earned his 137th cap at left back.
While Ecuador generated more chances than the USA did, including a penalty kick late on saved by Daniel Schmidt — once of Vegalta Sendai, Roasso Kumamoto, and Matsumoto Yamaga — Moriyasu will be pleased to have seen a committed and gritty defensive performance from his side.
With an undefeated window, Japan’s attention now turns to November, when they will play a friendly against Canada before kicking off their World Cup. With a strong team, all of whom have their roots in the J.League, the Samurai Blue are in fine form and dreaming big heading to Qatar!