Japan’s AFC third-round qualifying campaign for the 2022 FIFA World Cup is down to its final four matches, and half of those are set to be played in the upcoming week as they welcome China and Saudi Arabia for a pair of crucial contests.
For the two matches, manager Hajime Moriyasu has named a 23-man roster with seven current MEIJI YASUDA J.LEAGUE stars and filled out the rest with players who began in the domestic league before moving abroad.
Shimizu S-Pulse’s Shuichi Gonda has started all of Japan’s third-round matches and he’s back in the team for these qualifiers as Japan’s No. 1.
The Samurai Blue defense is well-stocked with J.League men. Kawasaki Frontale’s Miki Yamane and Shogo Taniguchi are both in the team, as are Nagoya Grampus’ Shinnosuke Nakatani, Urawa Reds’ Hiroki Sakai and F.C.Tokyo’s Yuto Nagatomo. Vissel Kobe’s Yuya Osako has been Moriyasu’s most favored striker in the qualifying campaign and he is back in the team, likely to take on the responsibility up top.
In addition to current J.League players, Moriyasu has also tapped Daizen Maeda. The forward spent last season at Yokohama F·Marinos, winning league Top Scorer with Leandro Damião, before signing with Celtic FC in Scotland this month.
Former stars like Liverpool’s Takumi Minamino, who came up with Cerezo Osaka, and Union Berlin’s Genki Haraguchi, who began at Urawa Reds, are just two of the 16 J.League alums in the team.
Japan play China on January 27 then Saudi Arabia on February 1, both at Saitama Stadium 2002, home of Urawa Reds. The currently sit second in Group B of qualifying on 12 points, four points back of Saudi Arabia and a point clear of third-place Australia. The top two teams in the group will qualify automatically to Qatar 2022.