Playmakers Daichi Kamada and Takefusa Kubo headline Japan’s 26-man squad for the World Cup in Qatar after manager Hajime Moriyasu announced his picks on Tuesday.
Celtic forward Kyogo Furuhashi and midfielder Reo Hatate notably missed out on selection for the Samurai Blue, who will take on Germany in their Group E opener on Nov. 23 before facing Costa Rica on the 27th and Spain on Dec. 1.
Vissel Kobe forward Yuya Osako and Union Berlin midfielder Genki Haraguchi also went unnamed by Moriyasu, with Nagoya Grampus winger Yuki Soma getting a surprise call.
“I’ve made the best, comprehensive selection possible, placing importance on our activities thus far, the situations the players are facing (at their clubs) and with how we plan to play at the World Cup in mind,” Moriyasu said.
“There really are lots of players in all positions that could have been picked. It was extremely difficult.”
Japan have reached the knockout stage of the tournament three times, the most of any Asian nation, and Moriyasu reiterated Japan’s ambition is “reaching the last eight” for the first time in their seventh straight appearance.
Kamada and Kubo are among 19 first-time World Cup selections, also including attackers Junya Ito, Takumi Minamino and Kaoru Mitoma, as well as midfielder Hidemasa Morita and defender Takehiro Tomiyasu.
Captain Maya Yoshida and Hiroki Sakai will play their third straight World Cups at the back. Experienced defender Yuto Nagatomo, 36, will travel to his fourth straight finals along with 39-year-old goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.
Moriyasu kept faith in defender Ko Itakura and forward Takuma Asano, who have both been out since mid-September due to knee ligament injuries, but are expected to recover in time for the World Cup.
With Kubo, Morita and Ao Tanaka also picking up knocks in the past week, Moriyasu said he could be forced into making late changes, especially with games in European leagues taking place until a week before the Nov. 20 World Cup opening.
“We never know what might happen. Players (not picked) have equivalent abilities and I hope they retain their will to fight for Japan,” he said.
Moriyasu’s side will play a warm-up game against Canada on Nov. 17 in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Japan’s World Cup squad:
Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima (Strasbourg), Shuichi Gonda (Shimizu S-Pulse), Daniel Schmidt (Sint-Truiden)
Defenders: Yuto Nagatomo (FC Tokyo), Maya Yoshida (Schalke), Hiroki Sakai (Urawa Reds), Shogo Taniguchi (Kawasaki Frontale), Miki Yamane (Kawasaki Frontale), Ko Itakura (Borussia Monchengladbach), Yuta Nakayama (Huddersfield), Hiroki Ito (Stuttgart), Takehiro Tomiyasu (Arsenal)
Midfielders/Forwards: Gaku Shibasaki (Leganes), Wataru Endo (Stuttgart), Junya Ito (Reims), Takuma Asano (Bochum), Takumi Minamino (Monaco), Hidemasa Morita (Sporting Lisbon), Daichi Kamada (Eintracht Frankfurt), Yuki Soma (Nagoya Grampus), Kaoru Mitoma (Brighton), Daizen Maeda (Celtic), Ritsu Doan (Freiburg), Ayase Ueda (Cercle Brugge), Ao Tanaka (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Takefusa Kubo (Real Sociedad)
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