Soccer

Takefusa Kubo, 17, named to Japan's senior national squad for first time

Kyodo

Seventeen-year-old J. League star Takefusa Kubo on Thursday received his first call-up to Japan’s senior national squad for next month’s friendlies against Trinidad and Tobago and El Salvador.

Kubo, an attacking midfielder for FC Tokyo, was one of three uncapped players named to the squad, joining Yuta Nakayama, 22, a center-back with Dutch first-division club PEC Zwolle, and Sanfrecce Hiroshima goalkeeper Keisuke Osako, 19.

“We want to incorporate a new generation (of players) and give them deeper exposure to our team tactics,” Samurai Blue manager Hajime Moriyasu said.

Japan will host Trinidad and Tobago on June 5 at Toyota Stadium in Aichi Prefecture before facing El Salvador four days later at Hitomebore Stadium Miyagi in Rifu, Miyagi Prefecture.

The pair of friendlies will serve as warm-ups for the Copa America, which begins on June 14 in Brazil, where Japan will play as an invited nation.

Kubo, who represented Japan at the 2017 U-20 World Cup, said he expects to feel some trepidation when he joins the senior squad for the first time.

“I won’t really know until practice or games start, but I’ll probably feel some nerves,” he said. “This is something I’ve been aiming at for a long time, so I think it’s natural to be nervous.”

The youngster, who was among a group of underage players who trained with Japan’s 2018 World Cup squad in Russia, said he looked forward to joining veterans of the tournament such as Shinji Kagawa and Genki Haraguchi for the friendlies.

“I think this is a real learning opportunity,” he said. “There are many different things about playing that I can pick up from different people. I want to learn everything I can on and off the pitch.”

Veteran goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima returns to the Japan squad for the friendlies following nearly a year-long absence from the national team. The 36-year-old gloveman for French side Strasbourg last played for the Samurai Blue at World Cup.