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SAMURAI BLUE starts practical training sessions at Abu Dhabi – AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 (1/5-2/1)

05 January 2019

SAMURAI BLUE starts practical training sessions at Abu Dhabi – AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 (1/5-2/1)

After arriving to UAE on the day before, the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) held a training session on the evening of Friday 4 January. The session was held in Abu Dhabi, where the team will have their first two matches of the Asian Cup. The three players who joined the team the night before, YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC), MUTO Yoshinori (Newcastle United), and NAKAJIMA Shoya (Portimonense S.C.) were left out of the squad to allow them to rest their body after their participation in their club team matches.

ENDO Wataru (Sint-Truidense V.V.) was also unseen on the pitch as he is yet to join the team with a fever, but the remaining 19 players showed up for the training session. The team started off the session with a light jog, agility training, and went through drills to get their feeling of the ball. The players were then seen playing a possession drill in a small grid to go over their transitions between offence and defence. The session proceeded with a shooting drill designed to get multiple players involved before taking a shot. During this drill, players and staffs were seen communicating with each other over and over to get the timing right. Despite seeing MORITA Hidemasa (Kawasaki Frontale) leaving the session with a discomfort in his right hamstring, the session was conducted thoroughly as the team concluded the day with a scrimmage. With just four days left ahead of their first match against Turkmenistan on Wednesday 9 January, the team will pick up their pace to heighten their conditions and polish up their combinations.

On this day, 65 local students from the Abu Dhabi Japanese School came to watch the training session. The students were given the opportunity to take pictures with the players prior to the session and the players took time after the session to give out autographs. Despite it being a short period of time, the team was able to socialise with the local Japanese people residing in Abu Dhabi.

It was also announced that Endo has left Japan on this day to join the team on Saturday 5 January.

Players’ Comments

GK #12 GONDA Shuichi (Sagan Tosu)
I have played in the Asian Cup once, and it is the only title I have won in my professional career, so I am very eager to win the title again. The climate has changed dramatically over the past two days. However, the temperature is higher than Japan, so it is much nicer here. Our first match is scheduled during the daytime, so we must prepare for the hot weather. As a member of the Japan National Team, we must become a figure that the local Japanese people will want to cheer for us. We must be able to give positive influence to the children who showed up today and make them want to support us and want to play football.

DF #4 SASAKI Sho (Sanfrecce Hiroshima)
After arriving to UAE, I am more focused than ever before, and I am doing my best to adjust to the climate. In order to fight through the seven matches during this tournament, we need more than 11 players ready to play. Our coach has always mentioned that a total team effort will be required, so I will give my very best to condition myself to stay prepared to play at any given time. This is a long tournament and the entire team must put in the effort to make a deep run. The level of play is very high, and I will cherish the time with this team. In the training match, I will focus on the details of our combinations and positionings.

DF #19 SAKAI Hiroki (Olympique de Marseille/France)
Now that we have arrived at the match site, we will all give our best to condition ourselves ahead of the match. Although it’s important to aim for the first match, it’s never good to rush yourself, so I will try to keep my pace during the process. I personally like the wind and pitch condition here, so we hope to take advantage of our environment for our matches. This is my first Asian Cup appearance, and we have lost at the first match of the knockout stage at the World Cup, so we hope to make a deep run at this tournament. However, it will be very difficult to win seven matches whilst saving energy to play the next match, so we will enter the tournament with a challenger’s mentality. I am looking forward for the challenge.

MF #7 SHIBASAKI Gaku (Getafe C.F./Spain)
I am getting the sense that it is finally starting. We hope to heighten the team’s intensity ahead of the first match. I fully understand where I stand in this team. I feel the responsibility but at the same time, I am very calm at this moment. My personal goal is to play the entire match during this tournament and win the title for the team. This is a long tournament, so I will prepare myself well. Our goal is to win the championship. This tournament gives us a great opportunity to show where Japan stand in Asia, so we hope to showcase our ability and achieve our goal.

MF #14 ITO Junya (Kashiwa Reysol)
The first match of the tournament is very important, but we must not emphasise too much on it, as we have many more matches to play. (Regarding the official football) I have played with it in Japan before, so I know how it’s like and I don’t have any issues with it. Our priority is set for the team victory. Personally, I will do my best to showcase my strong points and get myself involved in our team’s goals.


SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) Squad, Schedule

  • Interview of GONDA Shuichi (Sagan Tosu)

  • Interview of SAKAI Hiroki (Olympique de Marseille/France)

  • Interview of SHIBASAKI Gaku (Getafe C.F./Spain)


Tournament Dates: Sat. 5 January - Fri. 1 February 2019

Group Stage:
Wed. 9 January Kick-off 20:00 (Japan Time)
vs Turkmenistan National Team

Sun. 13 January Kick-off 22:30 (Japan Time)
vs Oman National Team

Thu. 17 January Kick-off 22:30 (Japan Time)
vs Uzbekistan National Team

Broadcasting: Televised Live at TV Asahi Group
BS Broadcasting: Televised Live at NHKBS1

Tournament Information

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