By Samindra Kunti
December 13 – Japan have dropped Borussia Dortmund star Shinji Kagawa from their Asian Cup squad with coach Hajime Moriyasu opting for youth.
Moriyasu, who is chasing a sixth Asian Cup title for the Samurai Blue in the United Arab Emirates in January, has also omitted Leicester City striker Shinji Okazaki, but Southampton centre-back Maya Yoshida made the list.
Kagawa has long been the poster boy of Japanese football, but the former Manchester United player has failed to get much playing time at Dortmund under coach Lucien Favre. On Tuesday, the German outfit progressed to the knockout phase of the Champions League following a 2-0 win away to Monaco. Kagawa has let it be understood that he is looking to move to Spain.
“Of course, I wanted help from experienced players, those who went to the Russian World Cup and those who have led Japan for years,” said Moriyasu at a press conference. “Many of the players whom we selected at this time have only limited experiences. I have chosen them with hopes that they would take the ownership of the team and build the national team themselves and fight for the title.”
Ritsu Doan of Groningen, Shoya Nakajima of Portimonense and Takumi Minamino of Salzburg have all been selected and Moriyasu’s choice for youth might in part be explained by Japan’s hosting of the Olympic Games in 2020 as they seek to build a formidable team to challenge for medals on home soil. Veterans Werder Bremen striker Yuya Osako and Galatasaray defender Yuto Nagatomo will supplement Moriyasu’s youthful charges.
At the last Asian Cup in 2015, Japan topped a group with Iraq, Jordan and Palestine, but crashed out in disappointing fashion in the quarterfinals after a penalty shoutout against the United Arab Emirates. “Japan’s national team did not win the title last time,” said Moriyasu. “We will reclaim the Asian Cup and bring back the title.
The United Arab Emirates will stage the tournament from January 5 to February 1. For the first time, the Asian Cup will be played in a 24-team format. Japan have been drawn in group F alongside Turkmenistan, Oman and Uzbekistan. They kick off their campaign on January 9 against Turkmenistan.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1634711409labto1634711409ofdlr1634711409owedi1634711409sni@o1634711409fni1634711409