Japan, the most successful country in the Asian Cup history, wish to lift once again the continental trophy during the new edition held this month at United Arab Emirates. The Samuraï Blue have opted for a youth policy in order to clinch the title. Among the new faces, Takumi Minamino. More than two years after his participation at the Maurice Revello Tournament 2016, high expectations are surrounding the Salzburg striker.
29th January 2011. Asian Cup final : deep in the extra time, Tadanari Lee (seen three years before at the Maurice Revello Tournament) netted the winner against Australia (1-0) and fired Japan to their fourth continental title. A tournament record.
Since that, the Samuraï Blue haven’t won major trophy. Their recent run at the World Cup 2018 (a last-16 exit against Belgium) was a bright spell after a difficult period : after being eliminated in the group stage during the WC 2014, Japanese have been knocked out in the quarter finals during the Asian Cup 2015.
So, the aim is clear for the Asian Cup 2019 which has started on 5th January : returning to former glory. For that, the head coach Hajime Moriyasu has decided to rejuvenate his attacking line.
While Japan legend Keisuke Honda has retired from international football this summer, the stars Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki have been simply dropped ! The head coach put his faith in the new generation led by a player seen at the Maurice Revello Tournament 2016 : Takumi Minamino. Not selected for the World Cup 2018, the 23-year-old striker established himself as a regular striker over the last months : goals against both Costa Rica (3-0) and Panama (3-0) as well as a stunning brace against Uruguay (4-3) helped him to cement his place in the Japan starting XI.
Brilliant with his national team, the Japan international (7 caps, 4 goals) is also shining with his club like illustrated by the 4 goals scored in 6 Europa League games this season with RB Salzburg.
Now, It’s time to announce himself on the international scene during the Asian Cup 2019. Japan are the group F favorites on the paper. They will face Turkmenistan on this Wednesday before playing against Oman (13th January) and then Uzbekistan (17th January).
Crédits photo : Getty Images