SPORTS LAW AT THE CROSSROADS

How they qualified:

Topped their group in the second round with 22 points

Tournament record:

This will be their ninth appearance. They have won the trophy a record four  times: 1992, 2000, 2004 and 2011.

Star man:

Portimonense playmaker Shoya Nakajima (pictured) is the new creative attacking force of the Blue Samurai and may well have been transferred to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the English Premier League by the time the tournament begins.

 

Coach:

Hajime Moriyasu, who was an assistant to Akira Nishino at the World Cup in Russia and has come through the ranks, has a mixture of youth and experience. Despite a strong start under his tenure, he will be under pressure to go all the way even with eight more sides now in the competition.

What we can expect:

After being narrowly beaten by Belgium in the last 16 of the World Cup, Japan head to the tournament as one of the favourites especially having beaten Uruguay 4-3 in  October in an international friendly. But they will be without three household names in Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki. Honda retired after the World Cup in Russia, while Kagawa and Okazaki were surprisingly omitted despite having top-flight experience in Europe. “We weren’t able to win the tournament last time around. This time, we want to take back the title and bring home the Asian Cup,” Moriyasu (pictured)says. “While we have selected many inexperienced players, they strongly feel they can build a new national side and fight for the title. I picked the team with this in mind.”

Schedule (group F)

Jan 9 vs Turkmenistan, Al Nahyan stadium, Abu Dhabi

Jan 13 vs Oman, Sheikh Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi

Jan 17 vs Uzbekistan, Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium, Al Ai


Squad:

Goalkeepers: Daniel Schmidt (Vegalta Sendai), Shuichi Gonda (Sagan Tosu); Masaaki Higashiguchi (Gamba Osaka).

Defenders: Tomoaki Makino (Urawa Reds); Sho Sasaki (Sanfrecce Hiroshima); Hiroki Sakai (Marseille); Genta Miura (Gamba Osaka); Sei Muroya (FC Tokyo); Maya Yoshida (Southampton); Takahiro Tomiyasu (Sint-Truiden); Yuto Nagatomo (Galatasaray).

Midfielders: Wataru Endo (Sint-Truiden); Toshihiro Aoyama (Sanfrecce Hiroshima); Shoya Nakajima (Portimonense), Takumi Minamino (Salzburg); Gaku Shibasaki (Getafe); Hidemasa Morita (Kawasaki Frontale); Ritsu Doan (Groningen); Genki Haraguchi (Hannover); Junya Ito (Kashiwa Reysol).

Forwards: Takuma Asano (Hannover), Yuya Osako (Werder Bremen), Koya Kitagawa (Shimizu S-Pulse).