CHIBA – Japan’s World Cup squad departed the country Saturday on a charter flight bound for Austria, where it will hold a camp in preparation for the 32-team tournament that starts on June 14 in Russia.
More than 100 well-wishers gathered at Narita airport to see off the 23-man squad led by head coach Akira Nishino, who is tasked with guiding the Samurai Blue out of a tough Group H after replacing fired predecessor Vahid Halilhodzic in early April.
“All of us, players and staff, will fight as one,” the 63-year-old Nishino said at a departure ceremony before boarding the flight.
Players, including Galatasaray defender Yuto Nagatomo and Southampton center-back Maya Yoshida, tweeted photos of squad members posing in navy blue three-piece suits aboard the chartered Japan Airlines plane before takeoff.
The Samurai Blue will go into camp in the western Austria city of Innsbruck and play their final World Cup warmups against Switzerland in Lugano, Switzerland, on June 8, and Paraguay in Innsbruck on June 12.
Japan lost its final World Cup warmup on home soil, falling 2-0 to Ghana on Wednesday at Nissan Stadium, a day before the announcement of the final squad for the tournament.