Soccer

Samurai Blue names squad for World Cup qualifier

Kyodo

Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu named an experienced 23-man squad Wednesday for a “very tough battle” against Kyrgyzstan in the second round of Asian qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

The Samurai Blue sit atop qualifying Group F with three wins from as many matches but expect Bishkek’s Spartak Stadium to be a challenging environment for the Nov. 14 clash.

“We want to win every game as we progress through the second round of qualifying,” the 51-year-old Moriyasu said. “We expect it to be a very tough battle, including the surroundings.”

Captain Maya Yoshida will anchor a defense that includes fellow veterans Yuto Nagatomo and Hiroki Sakai, while playmaker Shoya Nakajima is expected to orchestrate the attack along with winger Takumi Minamino.

Among the domestic contingent, Vissel Kobe defensive midfielder Hotaru Yamaguchi and Sanfrecce back Sho Sasaki get their first call-ups since March.

Moriyasu did not call up any under-22 players in the picture for next year’s Olympic Games, including 18-year-old wunderkind Takefusa Kubo, currently with Spanish club RCD Mallorca on loan from Real Madrid.

Moriyasu also opted to leave out attacking mainstay Yuya Osako. The Werder Bremen forward has only recently returned to club duties following a layoff with a hamstring injury.

“We watched video of his most recent game and were in contact with his club. He seems to be in decent condition, but this time we have opted to select players without any health concerns,” Moriyasu said.

Japan, currently 28th in the FIFA rankings, beat Tajikistan 3-0 on Oct. 15 for its third straight group win.

The second round of Asian qualifying ends next June, after which each group’s top-two teams will advance to the third round. Group winners also qualify for the Asian Cup.

Currently 94th in the FIFA rankings, Kyrgyzstan sits second in the group ahead of Tajikistan on goal difference. After opening their second-round campaign with a 1-0 loss to Tajikistan, the White Falcons thrashed Myanmar 7-0 and edged Mongolia 2-1.

Following their return to Japan, the Samurai Blue will face Venezuela in a friendly at Panasonic Stadium on Nov. 19.

A number of J-League players will be swapped into the squad for the game, including Oita Trinita striker Ado Onaiwu, who gets a senior call-up after representing Japan at U-23 level.

Full squad for World Cup second-round qualifier versus Kyrgyzstan:

Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima (Strasbourg), Shuichi Gonda (Portimonense), Daniel Schmidt (Sint-Truiden).

Defenders: Yuto Nagatomo (Galatasaray), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Sho Sasaki (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Hiroki Sakai (Marseille), Sei Muroya (FC Tokyo), Naomichi Ueda (Cercle Brugge), Koki Anzai (Portimonense), Shinnosuke Hatanaka (Yokohama F Marinos).

Midfielders: Hotaru Yamaguchi (Vissel Kobe), Genki Haraguchi (Hannover), Gaku Shibasaki (Deportivo de La Coruna), Wataru Endo (Stuttgart), Junya Ito (Genk), Kento Hashimoto (FC Tokyo), Shoya Nakajima (Porto), Takuma Asano (Partizan Belgrade), Takumi Minamino (Salzburg), Daichi Kamada (Eintracht Frankurt).

Forwards: Kensuke Nagai (FC Tokyo), Musashi Suzuki (Consadole Sapporo).

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