Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu introduced new faces and tactical tweaks in a 1-1 home draw with Uruguay on Friday as the Samurai Blue began their journey toward the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Leaving out veteran World Cup defenders Maya Yoshida, Yuto Nagatomo and Hiroki Sakai altogether, it was a fresh-looking four-man defense that began the game at the National Stadium in Tokyo, with right back Yukinari Sugawara impressing in particular.

The AZ Alkmaar defender, who moved from Nagoya Grampus to the Netherlands in 2019 after just a handful of J. League appearances, has established himself in the top-flight Eredivisie but had been limited to a single Japan appearance to date.