With the 2022 FIFA World Cup only two months away, Japan are set to take on the USA and Ecuador in a pair of final tune-up matches on September 23rd and 27th in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Both upcoming friendlies will present Japan with some unique challenges and manager Hajime Moriyasu has chosen a squad for the games with a strong J.League flavor.
Eight of the 30 Samurai Blue squad members currently play in the J.League, with the rest of the team made up of players with roots at J.League clubs and their academies.
The current domestic league crop is led by goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda of Shimizu S-Pulse, who is expected to be the Samurai Blue starter in Qatar. One of his backups is likely to be Kosei Tani, who joins the roster from Shonan Bellmare, where he is on loan from Gamba Osaka.
Tani's teammate Shuto Machino is one of the rising stars of the J.League this season and the 22-year-old attacker will be looking to keep his form going in Düsseldorf to earn a ticket to Qatar.
Another pair of J.League teammates in the squad are Kawasaki Frontale duo Miki Yamane and Shogo Taniguchi, who will both hope to contribute defensive depth to the Japanese team this winter.
Elsewhere on the backline, F.C.Tokyo’s Yuto Nagatomo and Urawa Reds’ Hiroki Sakai are two of the most experienced international players in the team, while Nagoya Grampus’ Yuki Soma will look to make the most of his opportunity in Germany.
Those are the current J.Leaguers in the Samurai Blue team, but plenty more squad members have origin stories in the domestic pyramid, in both the distant and recent past. From Schalke 04's Maya Yoshida debuting with Nagoya in 2007 to Ayase Ueda leading J1 in goals for the first half of this season in Kashima before heading to Cercle Brugge in Belgium, this is a Samurai Blue squad whose stories and roots run deep through the J.League.