SAMURAI BLUE to resume AFC Asian Qualifiers in January, while Nadeshiko Japan enter competition with huge implications in January - Japan National Team 2022 Annual Schedule Conference
18 December 2021
On Friday 17 December, Japan Football Association announced the schedule of activities for each category of the Japan National Team for the year 2022. The SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) will be back in action in mid-January as they prepare for the AFC Asian Qualifiers (Road to Qatar) for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ which starts in November, while the Nadeshiko Japan (Japan Women's National Team) will also compete in the AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022™ in late January to qualify for the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™.
The SAMURAI BLUE's first match of the World Cup year will be against Uzbekistan in the KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP at Saitama Stadium 2002 on Friday 21 January, which will be an important match to improve the team's condition ahead of the AFC Asian Qualifiers (Road to Qatar) against China PR on Thursday 27 January and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday 1 February.
Since the final round of the Asian qualifiers started in September, Japan has managed to improve its record to four wins and two losses, and is currently ranked second in Group B. With four matches remaining, including an away match against Australia on Thursday 24 March and a match against Vietnam at Saitama Stadium 2002 on Tuesday 29 March, the team will be aiming to secure a top-two finish to qualify for the World Cup without going through the playoffs.
Once qualifying for the World Cup, the team will play a total of six international matches during the international matchdays in June and September to strengthen the squad. The team will also take part in the EAFF E-1 Football Championship in China in July, in which the team will be fielding a squad mainly consisting of domestic players for the summer tournament involving four East Asian countries.
Unlike the traditional schedule, this World Cup will be held in November and December, due to the climate of the host country, Qatar. As the tournament will take place in the middle of the season of many European leagues, the duration of the preparation camps for this tournament will be shorter than usual, and it is expected that the team will have very few opportunities to play training matches before the tournament. For this reason, each match leading up to the tournament, including the qualifiers, is a valuable opportunity to strengthen the team.
Japan National Team coach MORIYASU Hajime said in an online press conference, “We must first qualify for Qatar. We will do our best to prepare for each of the remaining matches and fight as hard as we can, so that we can qualify for the World Cup.” The coach continued by stating, “We will continue to work hard on the tasks in front of us so that we can reach the top eight or better, which would be the highest finish in the history of the Japan National Team.”
Meanwhile, the Nadeshiko Japan, who welcomed their new coach IKEDA Futoshi in October, will be competing in the AFC Women's Asian Cup, which will be held in India from Thursday 20 January to Sunday 6 February, where they will try to win their third consecutive title and qualify for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.
The team will then compete in the EAFF E-1 Football Championship 2022 in July and the Asian Games (Hangzhou) in September. In addition to their international matchday activities in April, June and November, the team will also be playing in international friendlies in Kobe and Nagano on Thursday 6 and Sunday 9 October respectively, in which the opponents will be announced in due course.
With the Asian Cup coming up at the beginning of the year, coach Ikeda shared his aspiration, “Our first goal is to qualify for the World Cup by winning the Asian Cup. After that, we will strengthen the team through our training camps and try to develop into a team that can compete at the world level.”
In addition, coach Ikeda will also be in charge of the U-20 Japan Women's National Team, who are scheduled to participate in the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Costa Rica 2022™ in August, and the U-17 Japan Women's National Team, led by coach KANO Michihisa, will participate in the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup India 2022™ in October.
U-21 Japan National Team set for a new start in March for the 2024 Olympic Games
The U-21 Japan National Team, aiming to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, will begin their campaign in early March with a training camp under newly appointed coach OIWA Go.
The team is scheduled to participate in the AFC U23 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2022™ in May and the Asian Games (Hangzhou) in September, and their first trip abroad is scheduled for late March.
Having won the AFC Champions League (ACL) and finished fourth in the FIFA Club World Cup™ in his three seasons in charge of Kashima Antlers from 2017, coach Oiwa shared his hopes to make the most of his experience saying, “The 2024 Olympics is our target. By playing with a strong focus on winning the matches in front of us, I want to build a team that the fans and supporters can get behind.”
Furthermore, the U-19 Japan National Team will be under the leadership of coach TOGASHI Koichi, and the U-16 Japan National Team will be led by coach MORIYAMA Yoshiro, as the two teams will be aiming for the FIFA U-20 World Cup™ and FIFA U-17 World Cup™ respectively in 2023.
Leading up to their respective World Cups, the U-19 Japan National Team will be competing in the AFC U-20 Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers in early September and the U-16 Japan National Team will be competing in the AFC U-17 Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers in late September. Both teams will be building their teams through training camps, trips abroad, and international competitions.
Japan Futsal National Team to regain Asian title under new regime
After reaching the round of 16 at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania 2021™ in September this year, the Japan Futsal National Team, under coach KOGURE Kenichiro, will play in the AFC Futsal Asian Cup Kuwait 2022 regional qualifiers in April and the main tournament in October. The team will play two international friendlies, in Matsue and Toyota, on Thursday 15 and Sunday 18 September, respectively, to finalise their preparations for the tournament in Kuwait.
Coach Kogure expressed his enthusiasm towards their first Asian title since 2014, “Only Japan and Iran have won the title thus far, so we will do our best to win the title with the mindset of champions.”
The Japan Beach Soccer National Team will be competing at the Intercontinental Cup 2022 in Dubai in October and will be looking to build on their experience at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Russia 2021™ in August, where they finished as the runners-up.
During the press conference, coaches from each category of the Japan National Team asked questions to each other, to discuss topics such as the short preparation time before matches, and whether futsal training is effective to improve the performance for football.
Regarding the challenges of the short preparation period, coach Moriyasu shared his take based on his own experience, “We try to clarify the team concept and remind ourselves of the basis of our approach every time we play.” As for the effectiveness of futsal, he pointed out the ability to make decisions in small spaces and the technical skills required to play futsal, and replied, “I felt that if we could translate what is done in futsal to the full court, we could compete on the world stage.” The conference led to an active discussion where coaches of different categories exchanged opinions, as coach Oiwa also expressed his view that there are plenty of elements that could be incorporated from futsal, saying that “Futsal incorporates more strategy and tactics than football.”
SORIMACHI Yasuharu, JFA Technical Director
Next year, the SAMURAI BLUE will start their campaign in January to compete on the world stage. Under the leadership of coach Moriyasu, we will work as one to qualify for the World Cup and strive to achieve good results in the tournament. Led by coach Oiwa, the U-21 Japan National Team will compete in the AFC U23 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2022™ at the end of May through June, followed by the Asian Games in China in September. After that, we will continue to strengthen the team by organising trips abroad. The U-19 Japan National Team will start in March under the leadership of coach Togashi. There are not many players in this age group who are active in the J.League, but we want to provide enough activities to stimulate and inspire them. The U-20 World Cup qualifiers are due to start in September. We will be facing a very tough competition heading into the World Cup, but we hope to strengthen the team through the qualifiers and ultimately become the world champions. The U-16 Japan National Team will be led by coach Moriyama and compete in the Montaigu Tournament in April and the International Dream Cup in Sendai in June. The team will aim to win through the qualifiers to advance to the World Cup in 2023.
SASAKI Norio, Chairman of JFA Women's Committee
Under the new regime of coach Ikeda, the Nadeshiko Japan travelled to the Netherlands in November with the concept of “winning the ball, scoring goals and winning the match.” Although the team has struggled to score goals and win matches, I strongly feel that the team is executing what the coach is trying to do. During my time as a coach, I also tried to make the most of the unique attributes of the Japanese players. With that attitude, I will do my best to help coach Ikeda and the Nadeshiko Japan reach the top of the world once again. Coach Ikeda is also in charge of the U-20 Japan Women's National Team, and we would like him to guide the players through the same concept of the Nadeshiko Japan so that the players can develop directly into the senior squad. The U-17 Japan Women's National Team, who consist of players with great physiques and athleticism, will seek to regain their title under the leadership of coach Kano. The U-17 national team will compete in India and the U-20 national team will compete in Costa Rica, where they will both try to become world champions.
KITAZAWA Tsuyoshi, Chairman of JFA Futsal Committee
The Futsal Japan National Team have started their new campaign under coach Kogure in December and have a new line-up of players including those with World Cup experiences. I believe that the development of the team depends on the players and coaches taking things one day at a time, not forgetting the round of 16 finish at this year's World Cup and keeping in mind what is needed to go further. The U-19 Futsal Japan National Team will have one year to prepare for the AFC U-20 Futsal Asian Cup in 2023. Winning the title is one thing, but we also need to develop players who can play in three consecutive World Cups in order to reach the round of 16 and beyond, so the development of this age group will be key for the national team in the long run. Despite losing in the final to Russia, who we lost in the group stage as well, the Japan Beach Soccer National Team became World Cup finalists. Next year we will have the Intercontinental Cup, which will bring together the best players from all over the world, just like the World Cup, so we will prepare ourselves for this competition.
TASHIMA Kohzo, JFA President
Next year is the World Cup year. In order to qualify, we must make it our main goal to win the matches against China PR on 27 January and Saudi Arabia on 1 February. With the EAFF E-1 Football Championship coming up in July, it will provide a great opportunity for the players in the J.League to gain international experience, and hopefully we will see some of them earn their spot on the roster for the World Cup in Qatar. Preparations have also started for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. We hope that coach Oiwa of the U-21 Japan National Team will be able to use his experience with Kashima Antlers to help the team qualify for the Olympics and compete in the tournament. We are also expecting great things from coach Togashi of the U-19 Japan National Team and coach Moriyama of the U-16 Japan National Team. We hope to see many of the players from these age groups reach the senior squad in the future. The Nadeshiko Japan will be participating in the AFC Asian Cup in January. Under the leadership of coach Ikeda, I hope the team will be able to win the Asian title and excel in the World Cup, which will be held jointly by Australia and New Zealand. The U-17 Japan Women's National Team are also preparing for the World Cup, and both the men's and women's futsal teams have welcomed new coaches and are ready to take on the world again. Including the Japan Beach Soccer National Team, we look forward to working with you all in the coming year.
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