Doha (Qatar): The Samurai Blue will have their first practice session on Friday at Al Sadd SC Training Facilities in Doha, officials of the team informed media persons here.
On Thursday morning, six J. League players touch Doha, including veteran FC Tokyo defender Yuto Nagatomo, Shonan Bellmare forward Shuto Machino, Kawasaki Frontale defenders Shogo Taniguchi and Miki Yamane, Nagoya Grampus winger Yuki Soma and Shimizu S-Pulse goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda as part of Japan’s World Cup squad ahead of the November 20-December 18 tournament.
The 36-year-old Nagatomo is set to appear at four World Cups when Japan kick off their Group E campaign against four-time champions Germany on November 23.
Among the Japanese domestic league players making it to Qatar along with the former Inter Milan and Galatasaray man Nagatomo was Machino, who was called up late as an injury replacement.
Another J, League player who will reach Doha on Friday is Urawa Reds defender Hiroki Sakai, who is expected to take the late Thursday flight to Doha.
With manager Hajime Moriyasu having gone in for a majority of Europe-based players in his 26-man World Cup squad, the Blue Samurai will have their full session on conclusion of Sunday’s final round of European league matches, while the players already in Doha camp will have their first practice on Friday.
The squad is a mixture of youth and experience and comprises 19 World Cup rookies, 10 of whom were part of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics team which made it to the semifinals under the technical guidance of Moriyasu.
The Japanese squad also comprises of playmakers Daichi Kamada, who plays for Eintracht Frankfurt in the German league, Hidemasa Morita of Sporting CP, both who have excelled at the UEFA Champions League this season and thus will be aiming to carry forward their good run into the World Cup finals, which will be the first one for both of them.
Real Sociedad’s Takefusa Kubo, the team’s youngest member at 21-years-old, as well as Junya Ito (Stade de Reims) and Kaoru Mitoma (Brighton & Hove Albion FC) are some of the Europe-based players, who have been having a purple patch this season and will be keen to perform on the biggest stage.
Ritsu Doan (SC Freiburg), Daizen Maeda (Celtic FC), and Yuki are among the players who made the squad from the team that competed in the Tokyo Olympics.
Among the other veterans in the team besides Nagatomo is Eiji Kawashima (RC Strasbourg). At 39 he is the oldest member of the team and will be participating in the fourth World Cup finals.
Team captain Maya Yoshida (FC Schalke 04) and Hiroki Sakai (Urawa Red Diamonds) will make their third consecutive appearance in Doha, while Gaku Shibasaki (CD Leganes) and Wataru Endo (VfB Stuttgart), who played together at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, will play in their second World Cup along with Shuichi Gonda (Shimizu S-Pulse), who is making a comeback having made his debut at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
The Samurai Blue will play their final warm-up match before the tournament against Canada in Dubai on November 17.
Besides the German opener, Japan faces Costa Rica four days later. They then round-off their group-stage campaign against Spain on December 1, hoping to make it to the round of 16 from a difficult group.
Japan has the best record for an Asian country at the World Cup having reached the knockout stage of the tournament three times, the most by any Asian nation and
Moriyasu’s side is aiming to reach the quarterfinals for the first time in their seventh appearance at the FIFA World Cup finals.
In the 2018 World Cup, Japan became the first ever Asian nation to beat a side from South America, after they won 2-1 against Colombia in the group stage. The team made it to the pre-quarter finals knockout round but lost to Belgium, 3-2.