With new additions of Inui and Shiotani, SAMURAI BLUE conducts training session with all 23 players – AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 (1/5-2/1)
07 January 2019
On Sunday 6 January, the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) held a training session behind closed doors ahead of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019. The session held in Abu Dhabi was joined by newly added players, INUI Takashi (Real Betis) and SHIOTANI Tsukasa (Al Ain FC), as the team finally got to train with all 23 players.
Under a rather cool climate in the evening, the session started by introducing the newly called-up players, Inui and Shiotani, who replaced the injured NAKAJIMA Shoya (Portimonense S.C.) and MORITA Hidemasa (Kawasaki Frontale). During the introduction, the two players were welcomed by laughter and a round of applause from the team.
The session held on this day lasted an hour and a half, where only the first 15 minutes was open to the media. During the first 15 minutes, the team was seen warming up by taking a light jog and going over agility workouts. The players then went through passing and one-on-one drills. The remainder of the session was closed to the media, as the team went through their tactics ahead of their match against Turkmenistan on Wednesday 9.
The four players who were either on a separate menu from the team or rested for precautionary reasons all joined the team on this day, as OSAKO Yuya (Werder Bremen), ENDO Wataru (Sint-Truidense V.V.), YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC), and MUTO Yoshinori (Newcastle United) were all seen on the pitch training with the team.
For Inui, this was his first call up to the national team since last year’s 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. Despite being called up to the team just before the tournament, his two goals at the World Cup had propelled the team into the round of 16. Upon making his return to the team, Inui shared his aspiration, “I really wanted to come back to this team. Regardless of how I made the team, this is certainly an opportunity for me. I want to win the title with this team.” The team’s new number 10 continued by stating, “The top priority is to give the team a win. I want to display that intention through my plays.”
As for Shiotani, this was his first call up since 2015, but he has played under Coach MORIYASU Hajime back when they were both with Sanfrecce Hiroshima. With his current team, Al Ain FC, he has played in the recent FIFA Club World Cup and played in the league matches that took place until end of last month.
Regarding his national team call up, Shiotani mentioned, “I really wasn’t expecting to get called up, so it was a big surprise.” But the defender shared his take on upcoming tournament, “It’s been a while since I was selected to the national team, but ever since arriving to UAE, this tournament was a huge goal for me. I want to give my very best to allow the team to win the title. I wasn’t able to earn minutes in the previous tournament, so I will do my best to leave a mark this time.”
When asked about his teammates, Shiotani showed his confidence by saying, “I have played with many of these players and even if I haven’t played with the others, I’ve seen them play and have a good idea how they play. I will give my best to prepare myself ahead of the first match.”
The opening match of the tournament took place on Saturday 5, while Japan will start their campaign to capture their fifth overall title on Wednesday 9 where they take on Turkmenistan in Group F. The second match against Oman will be on Sunday 13, and the final group stage match will be on Thursday 17 when they face Uzbekistan.
The second match-day of the tournament featured actions from Group A and B, where India thrashed Thailand 4-1, while the match between Syria and Palestine ended in a scoreless draw. Elsewhere, Jordan caused an upset with their 1-0 victory over Australia.
Top two teams from each group will automatically advance, while the top four teams among the third-place finishers of each group will join the knockout stage. The final is scheduled to be held on Friday 1 February at Abu Dhabi.
GK #1 HIGASHIGUCHI Masaaki (Gamba Osaka)
We have been able to build a positive atmosphere where everyone can contribute to the team. The first match is very important in the group stage, and it will be even tougher because our opponents will come out playing solid defence against us. We must proceed and enter the match with great caution.
DF #18 SHIOTANI Tsukasa (Al Ain FC)
I really wasn’t expecting to get called up, so it was a big surprise when I received the news. For a second, I thought the team was asking me a question regarding UAE. Playing for the national team has always been a goal of mine, so regardless of how I got here, it’s a great achievement for me. I had a lot of fun at the training session. Ever since I left Japan, I feel like I have gotten stronger both physically and mentally, so I am very thankful for this opportunity to join the team. The goal for me now is to showcase what I am capable of doing at this stage.
MF #6 ENDO Wataru (Sint-Truidense V.V.)
I have been playing in matches until the year end, so my condition is not too bad. Once I play in a scrimmage, I think I can get myself back to full fitness. I see that my teammates are heightening their fitness level each day, so I will do the same and prepare myself ahead of our first match. We are preparing ourselves very well as a team. Despite seeing players leaving the team with injuries, we still have plenty of talent, so we will move forward with confidence.
MF #10 INUI Takashi (Real Betis)
I have been training all along, so I am not worried about my fitness level. The team has been playing with lots of joy, so I was very jealous watching from the outside. That is why I really wanted to return to this team. I hope to showcase my strong points and help the team win the title. I have been talking about the World Cup in Russia with my teammates and enjoying myself with the team. It will be ideal if I can perform the way I did at the World Cup, so I will strive to give my best and prepare myself ahead of the first match.
FW #13 MUTO Yoshinori (Newcastle United)
With the situations with my club team, there were times where I couldn’t join the national team, but I have been observing that the team has shown great cohesion between the young players and the veterans. The team has displayed great football thus far, and I came here with a vision to be a part of such team. The youngsters have really excelled at this level, but the older players must also utilise our experience to earn results and help out the younger players. Once I am given the opportunity, I feel confident that I can leave results with my club, as I am not afraid of playing against Liverpool nor Manchester United.
AFC ASIAN CUP UAE 2019
Tournament Dates: Sat. 5 January - Fri. 1 February 2019
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
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