Japan ‘backs to wall’ for must-win World Cup qualifiers

Tokyo (AFP) – Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu said his team have their “backs to the wall” in their bid to qualify for the 2022 World Cup as he named his squad Thursday for two must-win matches.

The Asian heavyweights took only three points from their opening three fixtures in Group B, but gave themselves hope with a 2-1 home win over second-place Australia last month.

The result may well have saved Moriyasu his job, with Japanese media speculating he could have been fired with anything less than a victory.

Moriyasu knows his side, who are fourth in Group B with only the top two automatically qualifying for Qatar, cannot afford any setbacks in away games against bottom-placed Vietnam on November 11 and third-placed Oman five days later.

“I’m aware that we’re in a very difficult situation,” Moriyasu said, with his team on six points from four games, six behind group leaders Saudi Arabia and three behind Australia and Oman.

“We have our backs to the wall and we have to give everything to give everything to take as many points from our last six games as possible. I strongly believe we can qualify for the World Cup.”

Moriyasu named a 27-man squad featuring Arsenal defender Takehiro Tomiyasu, Liverpool attacker Takumi Minamino and Celtic forward Kyogo Furuhasi.

There was also a first call-up for Kaoru Mitoma, on loan from Brighton at Belgian side Union Saint-Gilloise.

But there was no place for attacking duo Takefusa Kubo of Mallorca or PSV Eindhoven’s Ritsu Doan, with both failing to recover from the injuries that kept them out of last month’s qualifiers.

Moriyasu said the short time to prepare and the heat could be an issue when Japan take on Vietnam in Hanoi next Thursday.

“It will be a different environment to what the players are used to,” he said.

“It’s very cool in Japan and Europe now and we’re going to have to play in the heat, so we’ll need to pay attention to the players’ condition.”

Japan squad for World Cup qualifiers against Vietnam on November 11 and Oman on November 16:

Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima (Strasbourg/FRA), Shuichi Gonda (Shimizu S-Pulse), Kosei Tani (Shonan Bellmare)

Defenders: Yuto Nagatomo (FC Tokyo), Maya Yoshida (Sampdoria/ITA), Hiroki Sakai (Urawa Reds), Shogo Taniguchi (Kawasaki Frontale), Miki Yamane (Kawasaki Frontale), Sei Muroya (Hannover/GER), Kou Itakura (Schalke/GER), Yuta Nakayama (PEC Zwolle/NED), Reo Hatate (Kawasaki Frontale), Takehiro Tomiyasu (Arsenal/ENG)

Midfielders/Forwards: Yuya Osako (Vissel Kobe), Genki Haraguchi (Union Berlin/GER), Gaku Shibasaki (Leganes/ESP), Wataru Endo (Stuttgart/GER), Junya Ito (Genk/BEL), Takuma Asano (Bochum/GER), Takumi Minamino (Liverpool/ENG), Kyogo Furuhashi (Celtic/SCO), Hidemasa Morita (Santa Clara/POR), Daichi Kamada (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Kaoru Mitoma (Union Saint-Gilloise/BEL), Daizen Maeda (Yokohama F Marinos), Ayase Ueda (Kashima Antlers), Ao Tanaka (Fortuna Dusseldorf/GER)

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