Samurai Blue

Squad announced for Japan U-23’s Ghana friendly

The Japan Football Association on Friday announced its call-ups for the Japan Under-23 national team’s friendly against Ghana at Best Amenity Stadium in Tosu next Wednesday.

Twenty-two J.League players will take place in the MS&AD Cup 2016, which has been revamped as a charity match in support of Kumamoto prefecture following last month’s deadly earthquakes.


Masatoshi Kushibiki (Kashima Antlers)
Daichi Sugimoto (Tokushima Vortis)
Ayumi Niekawa (Sagan Tosu)


Sai van Wermeskerken (FC Dordrecht / Holland)
Genta Miura (Shimizu S-Pulse)
Takuya Iwanami (Vissel Kobe)
Naomichi Ueda (Kashima Antlers)
Ryosuke Yamanaka (Kashiwa Reysol)
Tatsuki Nara (Kawasaki Frontale)
Mavashi Kamekawa (Avispa Fukuoka)
Yukitoshi Ito (Kashima Antlers)


Riki Harakawa (Kawasaki Frontale)
Ryota Oshima (Kawasaki Frontale)
Gakuto Notsuda (Albirex Niigata)
Shinya Yajima (Fagiano Okayama)
Kento Hashimoto (FC Tokyo)
Yuta Toyokawa (Fagiano Okayama)
Junya Ito (Kashiwa Reysol)
Yosuke Ideguchi (Gamba Osaka)


Takeshi Kanamori (Avispa Fukuoka)
Takuma Asano (Sanfrecce Hiroshima)
Cayman Togashi (Yokohama F. Marinos)
Ado Onaiwu (JEF United Chiba)

Samurai Blue

Japan’s Olympic group decided

The Japan Under-23 national team learned their group stage opponents for the 2016 Rio Olympics on Thursday night following the draw in Rio de Janeiro.

Makoto Teguramori’s men will face Nigeria on August 4, Colombia on August 7, and Sweden on August 10.

Japan will be looking to improve on its fourth-place finish in London 2012 and earn the country’s first medal in the competition since the 1968 tournament in Mexico City.

Samurai Blue

Japan draw Australia in final World Cup qualifying round

Japan will face fellow Asian giants Australia and UAE in Group A of the final round of 2018 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifying.

The draw for the last phase was held on Tuesday night at AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, with the 12 remaining teams divided into two groups of six.

Japan, who are aiming for their sixth straight FIFA World Cup appearance, were drawn into Group B along with continental rivals Australia, former World Cup participants Saudi Arabia and 2015 AFC Asian Cup spoilers UAE.

The round kicks off on September 1 and will continue through September 5, 2017. The top two teams from each group will qualify for Russia 2018.

Teams that finish in third-place face off for the right to join the inter-confederation playoff against a CONCACAF representative.

2018 FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifying - Third Round Draw

Group A: Iran, South Korea, Uzbekistan, China, Qatar, Syria

Group B: Australia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iraq, Thailand

Samurai Blue

Japan finish strong in Syria win

Japan roared to a 5-0 victory over Syria on Tuesday night in the final match of joint qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

Urawa Reds goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa, FC Tokyo defender Masato Morishige and Gamba Osaka striker Takashi Usami were amongst the starters.

Kashima Antlers striker Mu Kanazaki also came on as a substitute as the Samurai Blue produced countless scoring opportunities over the course of the match.

After forcing a Syria own goal in the first half, Borussia Dortmund star Shinji Kagawa produced two goals of his own in the second half, with AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda and Hertha Berlin’s Genki Haraguchi also finding their way onto the scoreboard.

The win marked the 100th international appearance of striker Shinji Okazaki, who was honoured by the Japan Football Association after the match.

Japan concluded the second round of qualifying for Russia 2018 undefeated atop Group E with seven wins, one draw, 27 goals for, and no goals against.

Samurai Blue

Saito replaces Kobayashi for Japan

Yokohama F. Marinos winger Manabu Saito has been called up by Japan for their upcoming match against Syria, the Japan Football Association announced on Saturday.

The 25-year-old replaces Kawasaki Frontale striker Yu Kobayashi, who was injured in Thursday night’s 5-0 win against Afghanistan.

“It’s an incredible honour to be called up,” Saito said. “I want to take advantage of this opportunity and represent my club in contributing to Japan’s victory.”

The forward has played every minute of F.Marinos’ start to the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League, scoring one goal in four outings.

Samurai Blue

Halilhodzic praises players’ resolve after win

Vahid Halilhodzic hailed Japan’s “beautiful” 5-0 win over Afghanistan in 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2019 AFC Asian Cup joint qualifying, singling out Kashima Antlers striker Mu Kanazaki for praise.

“It was a beautiful victory,” the Samurai Blue coach told reporters. “The players were brave, showed fantastic team spirit, and demonstrated the aggression that I asked of them. 

“Their players didn’t come within 16 meters of our goal. This was our first time playing with this formation and by giving new players chances we were able to rest several other players.

“Mu Kanazaki is a newcomer but his presence was very good and he put himself in good positions to receive the ball. His goal wasn’t textbook but I’m glad he scored it. 

“He could have scored two or three more goals but he needs a bit more experience and confidence.”

With advancement to the third round of qualifiers already assured, Japan will conclude the second round against Syria on Tuesday at Saitama Stadium.

Samurai Blue

Japan advance to next round with Afghanistan blowout

The Samurai Blue took their next step toward the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a 5-0 win over Afghanistan on Thursday night at Saitama Stadium.

The hosts dominated in the first half, but could not find a goal until Leicester City star Shinji Okazaki received Hiroshi Kiyotake’s pass, weaved around two defenders and struck a powerful shot past the goalkeeper.

The scoring picked up in the second half, with Hannover midfielder Kiyotake, Southampton defender Maya Yoshida and Kashima Antlers striker Mu Kawasaki all finding the back of the net.

In addition to Kanazaki, the J.League was represented on the pitch by Gamba Osaka goalkeeper Masaaki Higashiguchi, FC Tokyo defender Masato Morishige, Urawa Reds midfielder Yosuke Kashiwagi and Kawasaki Frontale striker Yu Kobayashi.

The win, combined with other results across Asia overnight, assures Japan of advancement to the third round of World Cup qualifying. 

Vahid  Halilhodzic’s men will close out the second round against Syria on Tuesday, March 29.

Samurai Blue

Halilhodzic: Important Japan satisfy fans

Vahid Halilhodzic declared Japan’s have a duty to entertain fans ahead of their 2018 FIFA World Cup/2019 AFC Asian Cup joint qualifier against Afghanistan.

The Samurai Blue are on course to qualifying for the world championships in Russia, but the coach has warned that they cannot afford to get complacent against their upcoming opponents.

“As I’ve said before, our objective is to win [against Afghanistan and Syria], not allow any goals, and score as many goals of our own as possible,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “We’ve had a lot of discussions about this in training.

“We’ve studied our opponent but we also have to go into this match with enthusiasm. We can’t forget what happened [in the 0-0 draw] against Singapore. A lot of fans are coming and it’s the responsibility of the players to make sure they go home satisfied.

“We need to stay focused and not get flustered against Afghanistan. They’ve changed their manager and performed very well at the SAFF Championship. “

“Just because I’ve called up [newcomers such as Yu Kobayashi and Gen Shoji] doesn’t mean they’ll play immediately. 

“You can’t simply earn a spot in the team if you’re not qualified. I have to get to know their character and personality. 

“As I’ve said before, [J.League players] need to work harder to get into the national team. But nobody is guaranteed a call-up just for playing overseas.

“I want to install a sense of competition in my players, and I want them to show how much they want their spot.”

Samurai Blue

Rokutan, Yonemoto bow out of national team camp

Vegalta Sendai goalkeeper Yuji Rokutan and FC Tokyo midfielder Takuji Yonemoto have withdrawn from this week’s national team training camp due to injuries.

Yonemoto will be replaced by Kashima Antlers midfielder Ryota Nagaki, who has received his first national team call-up.

The camp, comprised of MEIJI YASUDA J.League-based talent selected by Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic, will run through till next Wednesday.

Samurai Blue

Participants announced for Kirin Cup

The Japan Football Association revealed the list of participants for the Kirin Cup 2016, which will take place on June 3 and 7 in Nagoya and Osaka.

The Japan national team will host Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Denmark in the tournament, which is to be contested by four teams for the first time.

The first round will take place on June 3 at Toyota Stadium, while the third place match and final will occur on June 7 at the newly-built Suita City Football Stadium, marking the first time that venue will host a senior international match.

“We’ve assembled a range of teams with different qualities for the Kirin Cup,” said Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic.

“Though they unfortunately did not qualify for Euro 2016, Bosnia & Herzegovina have individual quality and incredibly good technique.

“Denmark will represent Scandinavia; their physical strength gives them an advantage when it comes to long balls, aerial battles, set pieces, and plays inside the penalty area.

“Bulgaria is the melting pot of the Balkans; they are a mixture of technical and physical quality and several of their clubs have participated in European competition.

“With a technically-gifted team, a physically-gifted team, and a team with both qualities joining Japan, I expect this to be to be an excellent tournament.”

The match schedule as well as ticketing information will be announced at a later date.