Coach Moriyasu goes with youth in Japan squad for Asian Cup
TOKYO (AP) — Southampton’s Maya Yoshida and Salzburg’s Takumi Minamino have been included in a Japan squad that will be missing Shinji Okazaki and Shinji Kagawa at next month’s Asian Cup.
The Jan. 5-Feb. 1 tournament in the United Arab Emirates will be Japan’s first Asian Cup under head coach Hajime Moriyasu, who has a record of four wins and a draw since succeeding Akira Nishino after the World Cup in Russia.
“The last time we couldn’t win the title,” Moriyasu said. “So for this Asian Cup, I hope to win back the title and bring it back to Japan. We hope to compete with that goal in mind.”
Leicester City striker Okazaki and Borussia Dortmund playmaker Kagawa were both omitted in Wednesday’s announcement.
Moriyasu said he was eager to give younger players some international experience, overlooking some veterans who played earlier this year at the World Cup in Russia.
“The players chosen this time might have less experience, but I want them to have strong feelings about building their own new national team and competing for the title with these feelings in mind,” Moriyasu said.
Japan will face Turkmenistan in its Group F opener on Jan. 9, followed by matches against Oman on Jan. 13 and Uzbekistan on Jan. 17.
The expanded Asian Cup will feature 24 teams, with the top two from each of the six groups and the four best third-place teams advancing to the round of 16.
Japan last won the quadrennial continental championship in 2011 when it beat Australia in Qatar. Australia won the last Asian Cup on home soil in 2015.