Japan makes changes for game against Philippines


Staff Writer

The two veteran receivers who starred in Saturday’s exhibition game against Germany are out, and a couple new faces are in as the Japan national team prepares to face the Philippines on April 26 in the Asian qualifying game for the 2015 world championship, the Japan American Football Association announced on Wednesday on its official website.

Lixil Deers wide receiver Naoki Maeda, who caught a team-high seven passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns and was named the MVP of Japan’s 38-0 rout of Germany at Kawasaki Fujimi Stadium, has been removed from the 45-man roster and so has Obic Seagulls receiver Ryoma Hagiyama, who had 14- and 72-yard touchdown receptions against the Germans.

They are being replaced by Fujitsu Frontiers receivers Takeshi Akiyama and Junpei Yoshimoto.

“Akiyama and Yoshimoto missed the game against Germany because of injuries, but they are the guys we want to watch play,” Japan head coach Kiyoyuki Mori told The Japan Times. “Maeda and Hagiyama have had a lot of playing experience in the national team. We decided to give Akiyama and Yoshimoto the chance and experience this time.”

Others removed from the roster are running back Keita Takanohashi (Frontiers), linebacker Yuki Ikeda (Kwansei Gakuin University) and defensive back Toshinori Masutani (Panasonic Impulse).

Added in their place are running back Takashi Miyako (Nojima Sagamihara Rise), linebacker Yoshiki Tanaka (Hosei University) and defensive back Takeshi Miyake (Seagulls). The latter three also didn’t play for the national team against Germany because of injuries.

Japan will face the Philippines at Amino Vital Field in Chofu, Tokyo, for one of the two Asian berths in next year’s world championships in Sweden. South Korea clinched the other Asian spot by beating Kuwait 69-7 on Saturday.

According to Mori, no national team practices are scheduled ahead the game.

“We’re communicating via e-mail. We already broke down the last week’s game and the players can watch the videos in the cloud,” Mori said. “Every player has received a breakdown sheet that our coaching staff made, so we’ll be fine.”

The fifth world championship is scheduled for July 4-18 next year with 12 nations scheduled to participate. In addition to South Korea, the defending champion United States and host nation Sweden are already in the field.

Europe and North and South America each have three berths, while Oceania and Africa have one.