KUBO Takefusa, YOSHIDA Maya spearhead Japan's 18 for Tokyo 2020 men's football

Takefusa Kubo will try to lead the Japanese men to their first Olympic medal in 54 years at Tokyo 2020 this summer. (Photo by Getty Images)
Takefusa Kubo will try to lead the Japanese men to their first Olympic medal in 54 years at Tokyo 2020 this summer. (Photo by Getty Images)

Chasing their first Olympic medal since Mexico 1968, MORIYASU Hajime's side gunning for nothing less than gold at Games. Japan need to get past South Africa, Mexico and France in the group stage.

KUBO Takefusa and two-time Olympian YOSHIDA Maya were among 18 named to the Japanese men's football squad for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Tuesday (22 June).

With no surprises among his selection, coach MORIYASU Hajime - who has been entrusted with the task of trying to lead Japan back to the podium for the first time since Mexico 1968 - reiterated the team goal of winning a gold medal and his belief that he has the players to do it.

Japan are in Group A of the Olympic Football Tournament along with South Africa, Mexico and France, which gets underway from 22 July - 7 August.

Since Mexico 1968, the closest Japan have come to a medal was at London 2012 where they lost to South Korea in the bronze-medal match.

"As much as I'd like to pick everyone we have worked with, there are only a limited number of places for the Olympics - only 18", Moriyasu said during the online announcement.

Japan coach MORIYASU Hajime has his eyes on the ultimate prize - an Olympic gold medal on home soil.
Japan coach MORIYASU Hajime has his eyes on the ultimate prize - an Olympic gold medal on home soil.

"We have had to omit a lot of players who deserve to be here and the process was anything but easy.

"Our goal is to win a gold medal at the Games and I have picked the best 18 who can help us achieve that goal.

"We need to remind ourselves what it means to compete at the Olympics and having the privilege of representing Japan.

"We can give back to all those who have backed us so far by producing a great result".

Kubo, who split the past season at Getafe and Villareal on loan from Real Madrid, was one of seven midfielders chosen alongside PSV Eindhoven's DOAN Ritsu who will wear No. 10.

Yoshida, the 32-year-old center-half for Sampdoria who will make his third Olympic appearance at Tokyo 2020, was one of three overage players selected for the under-24 competition.

The other two are former Marseille fan favourite and right-back SAKAI Hiroki, who just announced his transfer back to the J.League at Urawa Reds, and Stuttgart midfield workhorse ENDO Wataru. Sakai and Endo competed at London 2012 and Rio 2016, respectively.

Of the 18, nine are homegrown J.League players, three from reigning champions Kawasaki Frontale - MITOMA Kaoru, TANAKA Ao and HATATE Reo.

Given the tight schedule of Games football - three first-round games in a space of six days - Moriyasu said versatility was a key factor in whittling the list from around the 90 he called up since the team first got together in December 2017.

Moriyasu, who also coaches the senior side, added his team would have looked vastly different had the Games gone ahead in 2020.

"I want the players who were picked this time to play for those who could not make the cut and give it their all for country", he said.

Moriyasu's side launch their campaign on 22 July against South Africa. Three days later they host Mexico followed by France on 28 July.

Japan will fine-tune for the Games with friendlies versus Honduras and Spain on 12 and 17 July, respectively.

The squad:

Goalkeepers: OSAKO Keisuke (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), TANI Kosei (Shonan Bellmare).

Defenders: YOSHIDA Maya (Sampdoria), SAKAI Hiroki (Urawa Reds), ITAKURA Ko (Groningen), NAKAYAMA Yuta (Zwolle), HATATE Reo (Kawasaki Frontale), TOMIYASU Takehiro (Bologna), HASHIOKA Daiki (Sint-Truidense).

Midfielders: ENDO Wataru (Stuttgart), SOMA Yuki (Nagoya Grampus), MIYOSHI Koji (Antwerp), MITOMA Kaoru (Kawasaki), DOAN Ritsu (PSV Eindhoven), TANAKA Ao (Kawasaki), KUBO Takefusa (Real Madrid).

Forwards: MAEDA Daizen (Yokohama F Marinos), UEDA Ayase (Kashima Antlers).

Alternates: SUZUKI Zion (Urawa), MACHIDA Koki (Kashima), SEKO Ayumu (Cerezo Osaka), HAYASHI Daiki (Sagan Tosu).

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