Tokyo Summer Olympics is just around the corner. Let’s have a look at the Japanese players who could become the stars of the tournament.
Goalkeeper Keisuke Osako is the most likely to be between the sticks for Japan. The youngster from Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s academy claimed a starting spot in the team last season, which was only his second as a professional. He made 29 appearances and had his senior national team debut during the Copa America in June.
The 187 cm-tall goalkeeper has great aerial ability and excellent response to close-range shots. His combative playing style and accurate build-up from the back are also rated highly. Even though he is still only 19-year-old, his calm presence suggests a great future for him.
Among defenders, FC Tokyo’s Tsuyoshi Watanabe is one to watch. He made 20 J.League appearances as a rookie last year and quickly developed into one of the regular players at his club. His biggest strength is his skill in the air, which enables him to intercept opponents’ crosses and long passes as well as scoring headers from set-pieces. His quality can be also seen in his response to attackers in other situations, and his confidence could give him a further boost in his second year as a professional.
Urawa Reds’ Daiki Hashioka is another who can play an important role at the Olympics. He grew up in Urawa’s academy and played 25 matches in his rookie year. Although his appearances decreased to 18 matches in his second season, partly due to injuries, his powerful defense and aggressive overlaps have often proved to be crucial for his team. He mostly plays as a right back for Urawa, but he can also play as a center back. In addition to his defensive ability, he has improved significantly in his attacking moves. Not only can he sprint into space and provide accurate crosses but also finish with powerful headers.