The 2022 FIFA World Cup is nearly here and Japan is ready to take on the best from around the globe.
When the Samurai Blue step onto the pitch in Qatar, they will do so with a team made up entirely of players with ties to the Meiji Yasuda J.League. All 26 men named to Hajime Moriyasu’s squad either made their professional debuts with a J.League club or currently play for one, making the domestic league the backbone of the Samurai Blue.
Seven players on the roster currently play in the J.League, with six clubs represented.
Shimizu S-Pulse’s Shuichi Gonda will be hoping to feature in goal, while the Kawasaki Frontale duo of Shogo Taniguchi and Miki Yamane will provide much-needed depth in Qatar.
Elsewhere, Urawa Reds’ Hiroki Sakai and F.C.Tokyo’s Yuto Nagatomo will provide a helpful veteran presence, with 208 caps between them.
Nagoya’s Yuki Soma is in the team to provide a threat off the bench, while Shonan’s Shuto Machino was a replacement selection after a breakout season at his club made him one of Japan’s brightest young players.
Outside of the current J.League contingent, there are plenty of ties to domestic football throughout the squad. Schalke 04 center back Maya Yoshida, who began his career at Nagoya Grampus, will wear the armband for Japan, while players like Takumi Minamino, Daichi Kamada, and Takefusa Kubo all trampolined to European stardom from the J.League.
In addition to the long-time European players, Ayase Ueda, Kaoru Mitoma, Ao Tanaka and Daizen Maeda all played in the J.League in the last two seasons before moving abroad and are now heading to the World Cup.
With such a strong team from front to back, the Samurai Blue are dreaming of a mega World Cup. They’ve been dealt a difficult draw, with Spain, Germany, and Costa Rica alongside them in Group E, but this is a team that has shown it can turn it on when the spotlight shines brightest.