KAZAN, RUSSIA – The Japan national team held its first training session at its World Cup camp in Russia on Thursday.
Coach Akira Nishino and the 23-man squad arrived the previous night by charter flight after wrapping up their pre-World Cup camp in Innsbruck, Austria. Kazan is roughly one and a half hours east of Moscow by air.
The Samurai Blue concluded their warmup campaign on a high note by beating Paraguay 4-2 in the western Austrian resort city on Tuesday.
The victory, the first in three matches under Nishino, was a much-needed morale booster for Japan following an extended run of lackluster results.
The squad held Thursday’s session at the ground of Rubin Kazan, a club that has been one of the mainstays of the Russian Premier League since earning promotion to the domestic top flight in 2003, and has also played in the UEFA Champions League.
Members of the Japan squad, including attacking midfielder Takashi Inui, who spearheaded the victory over Paraguay with a two-goal performance, ran through drills in front of media and a number of traveling fans.
Inui, who is joining Spanish La Liga side Real Betis on a three-year contract, staked a strong claim to a spot in the Samurai Blue starting 11 for the tournament opener against Colombia in Saransk on Tuesday.
The team will leave Kazan on a charter flight for Saransk on Sunday night, returning to their base after the match.
The capital of the oil-rich, majority-Muslim Tatarstan region, Kazan is the sixth-largest city in the Russian Federation by population.
Promoted as Russia’s sporting capital, the city has several world-class sports venues and has regularly hosted international competitions, notably the 2013 Summer Universiade and the 2015 FINA World Championships.
The city’s showpiece stadium, the 45,000-seat Kazan Arena, will host four World Cup group stage matches as well as one round of 16 clash and a quarterfinal.