‘Nemesis’ Japan’s preparations are in full swing. They are moving quickly ahead of the Asian Cup in Qatar next January.
Hajime Moriyasu’s Japan A team will play Thailand in a friendly on Jan. 1, 2024, at 2 p.m. at the Tokyo National Stadium. On January 7, Moriyasu announced his 23-man roster for the first A match of the new year. Japan is ranked 17th in the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), while Thailand is ranked 113th. Thailand is led by Japanese coach Masatada Ishii.
Coach Moriyasu said: “We are aiming for a win against Thailand. We want to take on the challenge of improving our team tactics, individual experience, and hopefully get the year off to a good start. It’s a valuable opportunity leading up to the Asian Cup and then the World Cup Asian qualifiers and the main tournament. We have the best squad we can think of. There are some players we can’t call up due to scheduling. We don’t know what will happen at the Asian Cup: injuries, poor form, etc. As we have done in the past, we will prepare as best we can for the future.”
The roster for Thailand is far from complete. It excludes players who are scheduled to play for their clubs later in the year, such as in the English Premier League (EPL) and Spanish Primera Liga. Some key players have been called up, including Ayase Ueda (Feyenoord) and Junya Ito (Reims). Ko Itakura (Mönchengladbach) and Keito Nakamura (Linz) also returned. Nozawa Taishi Brandon (FC Tokyo) and Ito Ryotaro (Oita) joined for the first time.
Japan has been on an epic rise lately. At the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, they became the first Asian nation to reach the round of 16 in two consecutive tournaments. They won eight, drew one and lost one of their 10 A matches in 2023. Since their 1-0 loss to Colombia on March 28, they have won eight straight matches. They have been a force to be reckoned with in the Asian second round of the 2026 North American World Cup, even with some Europeans on the bench, including Takefusa Kubo (Sociedad) and Hiroki Ito (Stuttgart). Japan is one of the strongest favorites to win the Asian Cup.
“As we prepare for the Asian Cup, we want to build up victories from the first game, and I’m not just talking about physical and tactical preparation. We want to enter the tournament with the mental strength to fight for a long period of time and the mental strength to overcome any difficulties.” Japan will announce its final roster for the Asian Cup after the match against Thailand.
Jürgen Klinsmann’s South Korea will begin preparations for the Asian Cup. On June 18, the team will announce the players who will start training with the national team. They will begin training for the call-up on the 26th in the outskirts of Seoul. The final roster will be announced in the last week of December. The squad will travel to Abu Dhabi for a training camp on December 2 for a final warm-up. They will play friendly matches against Middle Eastern teams in the region.