Shinji Kagawa will be Japan’s highest-profile absentee at AFC Asian Cup 2019 after being left out of coach Hajime Moriyasu’s 23-man squad that was announced on Wednesday.
Kagawa, who has been a mainstay for the Samurai Blue since winning his first cap over a decade ago, has paid the price of failing to play regular first-team football at Borussia Dortmund, having made just two appearances in the Bundesliga this season.
January’s Asian Cup in United Arab Emirates is shaping up as a new era for continental powerhouses Japan, who will also be without retired trio Keisuke Honda, Makoto Hasebe and Gotoku Sakai.
— サッカー日本代表 (@jfa_samuraiblue) December 12, 2018
Other big names missing from Moriyasu’s squad include veterans Shinji Okazaki and Eiji Kawashima, Bundesliga-based duo Takashi Usami and Yuya Kubo, Newcastle striker Yoshinori Muto, and Real Betis winger Takashi Inui, who was Japan’s top scorer at the 2018 FIFA World Cup with two goals.
Nonetheless, there will still be plenty of experience for the Japanese to call on from the likes of Southampton centre-back Maya Yoshida, Galatasaray left-back Yuto Nagatomo, midfielders Genki Haraguchi (Hannover) and Gaku Shibasaki (Getafe), and Werder Bremen striker Yuya Osako.
In addition, the tournament should serve as a platform for some of Japan’s rising stars to show they have what it takes to lead the side into the future.
The simple narrative around Japan’s squad is no Kagawa or Okazaki, but it really is about the start of a new generation – Nakajima, Doan, Minamino. The early signs have been promising. Exciting to see them given the chance to lead this team forward.
— Paul Williams (@PaulWilliams_85) December 12, 2018
Particularly, the Europe-based trio of Shoya Nakajima (Portimonense), Takumi Minamino (Red Bull Salzburg) and Ritsu Doan (Groningen) have all impressed in recent friendlies, and it should not come as a surprise if they are entrusted by Moriyasu to play a key role in the Samurai Blue‘s bid to win a fifth Asian Cup.
Goalkeepers: Masaaki Higashiguchi (Gamba Osaka), Shuichi Gonda (Sagan Tosu), Daniel Schmidt (Vegalta Sendai)
Defenders: Yuto Nagatomo (Galatasaray), Tomoaki Makino (Urawa Red Diamonds), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Sho Sasaki (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Hiroki Sakai (Marseille), Sei Muroya (FC Tokyo), Genta Miura (Gamba Osaka), Takehiro Tomiyasu (Avispa Fukuoka)
Midfielders: Toshihiro Aoyama (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Genki Haraguchi (Hannover), Gaku Shibasaki (Getafe), Wataru Endo (Sint-Truiden), Junya Ito (Kashiwa Reysol), Shoya Nakajima (Portimonense), Takumi Minamino (Red Bull Salzburg), Hidemasa Morita (Kawasaki Frontale), Ritsu Doan (Groningen)
Forwards: Yuya Osako (Werder Bremen), Takuma Asano (Hannover), Koya Kitagawa (Shimizu S-Pulse)