SAMURAI BLUE announce squad for the upcoming KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP scheduled in March
16 March 2023
On Wednesday 15 March, Head Coach MORIYASU Hajime of the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) announced the team squad for the upcoming KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2023, where the team will face the Uruguay National Team on Friday 24 March at Japan National Stadium and the Colombia National Team on Tuesday 28 March at Yodoko Sakura Stadium. In addition to the players who contributed to the team’s advancement to the round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, four players, including TSUNODA Ryotaro (Yokohama F. Marinos) and NAKAMURA Keito (LASK), made their firsts call-up to the senior side.
Under the continued leadership of coach Moriyasu, 26 players have been called up for the team's first two international matches since the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. Four players got their first call-up, while 22 retuned to the team, including 16 who have participated in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.
Returning players from the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ include MITOMA Kaoru (Brighton & Hove Albion FC), who has continued his good form since the tournament, ITO Junya (Stade de Reims), DOAN Ritsu (SC Freiburg), TANAKA Ao (Fortuna Dusseldorf) and ITAKURA Kou (Borussia MG).
First time call-ups are Tsunoda, Nakamura, BANGNAGANDE Kashif (FC Tokyo) and HANDA Riku (Gamba Osaka), all of whom are aged between 21 and 23, with Bangnagande and Handa moving up from the Paris Olympics generation.
Speaking about the four players, Moriyasu commented, "Each of them has made their presence felt in the respective teams and has their own distinctive qualities. Now, I want them to show their eagerness to make their presence felt in the national team."
The returning players who didn’t participate in the World Cup include NISHIMURA Takuma (Yokohama F. Marinos), SUGAWARA Yukinari (AZ Alkmaar), HASHIOKA Daiki (Sint-Truidense VV), SEKO Ayumu (Grasshopper CZ), OSAKO Keisuke (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), and TANI Kosei (Gamba Osaka).
Nishimura and Osaka have returned to the team since last summer’s EAFF E-1 Football Championship, Tani and Seko since the Germany tour in autumn, and Hashioka since the AFC Qualifiers in October 2021. Sugawara returned to the squad since being side-lined due to an injury sustained in the team’s activity held in June of last year.
In preparation for his first campaign in his second term as national team head coach, Moriyasu described the upcoming matches as a “new start” towards the FIFA World Cup 2026™ and expressed his belief that “we must fight for victory in each game in front of us and stive to build the team ahead of the AFC Qualifiers and the World Cup.”
On the reason for selecting a fresh group of young players, including those of the Olympic generation, the national team coach said, "I want to add more depth to the squad in order to build the best national team ever. I hope that the players will make the most of this opportunity to develop as players at the individual level."
He also mentioned that the captain will be decided later on, after observing how the team is doing through the activities.
The team will start training on Monday 20 March to prepare for the matches against two of the South American powerhouses.
MORIYASU Hajime, Head Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
We would like to thank our supporters and the general public for their continued support for the national team. We are happy to be able to start a new chapter in our journey towards the FIFA World Cup 2026™ with these matches against great opponents. We will fight for victory in every match in front of us, while working to improve and grow our team's strength towards 2026. We must keep in mind that each of these matches are leading us towards the Asian qualifiers and the World Cup. To start with, we must first focus on giving our best effort in the match against Uruguay.
We have chosen the best players for the future. Yoshida, Nagatomo, and Sakai have supported the national team for a long time and their presence has been very important for me as a coach, and I thank them for their contribution over the years. They provided performances that could be calculated and have shown that they could still make the squad, but we want to add more depth to the squad in order to build the best national team ever. I hope that the players who have been given this opportunity will make their presence felt within the team and use this experience for their own development. While we intend to provide plenty of opportunities to those with less experience, we also intend to come up with ways to take advantage of the competition between the veterans and the young players to improve the overall level of the team.
As for the team concept, we want to make use of our experience at the World Cup and convey them to the players, so that they know exactly what they need to do. I think we have to improve all the attacking and defensive skills we have developed over the past four years leading up to Qatar, both individually and as a team. In order to compete at the world level, we need to be able to maintain a high level of intensity in both offence and defence. Although we were able to create chances from counterattacks at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, we didn’t have the quality to break through when possessing the ball. However, we did demonstrate our ability to make quick transitions between offence and defence, which enabled us to recover the ball after losing possession of it. That is something we need to build on and do more in the upcoming matches. We hope to defend tenaciously when we need to drop deep in our half, while making the transition to apply aggressive pressure from our frontline when we intend to press forward.
JFA has declared to win the World Cup by 2050. The question is how close can we get there by raising the level of our current abilities? The reality is that we haven't gone beyond the round of 16 in the World Cup, so we will continue to work towards our goal of becoming world champions by constantly thinking of ways to maximise and develop our current strengths.
YAMAMOTO Masakuni, JFA National Team Director
I am now in charge of the national teams from the SAMURAI BLUE to the U-15 national team as National Team Director. It is my job to make sure that the staff and players are working to the best of their ability. This is the first match after the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, with new staff and new players. I have high hopes for the team, and I'm looking forward to seeing how they develop in the future. This is the first step towards the FIFA World Cup 2026™, and we intend to grow together with all of you. JFA has set a roadmap to become World Cup champions by 2050, but we can't get there unless we work together with our fans, supporters and the media.
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