Japan name young Copa squad with eye on Tokyo Olympics
Japan named a young squad for next month’s Copa America in Brazil with head coach Hajime Moriyasu including only six capped players in the 23-strong squad on Friday.
Moriyasu’s decision to take such a young and raw squad to Brazil is further indication of Japan’s desire to go for gold when they host the Tokyo 2020 Olympics next year.
Soccer at the Olympic Games allows only three players aged over 23 and Moriyasu’s team for the tournament in Brazil reveals his plans for the home Olympics.
Former Leicester City striker Shinji Okazaki, who has 50 goals for his country in 116 appearances, is joined by goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima and midfielder Gaku Shibasaki as the only 23-plus players heading to South America.
Diminutive midfielder Shoya Nakajima, who has impressed since being made an almost permanent fixture under Moriyasu, is also in the squad looking to further cement his place in the coach’s plans.
Seventeen-year-old J. League star Takefusa Kubo has also been named, which is sure to excite fans in Japan who have seen the teenager impress for table-toping FC Tokyo this season.
Kubo was also named on Thursday in a different squad for the friendlies against El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago next month.
Japan and Qatar are the two invited nations from outside South America.
Moriyasu’s men have been drawn in Group C alongside Uruguay, Ecuador and Chile.
REUTERS/Reporting by Jack Tarrant Editing by Amlan Chakraborty