Japan hoping to upstage 'role models' Germany at World Cup

By AFP   November 22, 2022 | 05:03 pm PT
Japan hoping to upstage 'role models' Germany at World Cup
Japan players celebrate after scoring against Saudi Arabia in a World Cup qualifier, Saitama, Japan, February 1, 2022. Photo by Reuters
Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu is hoping the apprentices can upset the masters when they take on "role models" Germany in their World Cup opener on Wednesday.

Germany has become a popular destination for Japanese players in recent years, with eight of the current squad playing in the Bundesliga.

Moriyasu paid tribute to the contribution German football has made to his players' development but urged them to show their own qualities when the teams meet in Doha.

"Germany have won the World Cup and that is our aim too -- they are role models for us," the manager said on Tuesday.

"We are learning from Germany but we also want to compete on the world stage with the qualities that Japan has.

"We have a lot of feelings towards Germany but we have to treat tomorrow's game as if we are playing any other team and just do our best."

Japan have been handed a tough group, with Costa Rica and Spain also lying in wait in Group E.

The Blue Samurai have never gone beyond the last 16 at a World Cup but Moriyasu said they were hoping to "change history" by reaching at least the quarter-finals.

Captain Maya Yoshida acknowledged that their chances of progress could hinge on the result of their opening game.

The centre-back has witnessed Germany's players at close quarters since joining Schalke in July, and is impressed by what he has seen.

"We understand that they have good qualities -- speed, pace and physical ability as well," said the former Southampton player, who is appearing at his third World Cup.

"The key is we have to defend well. Probably less opportunity to attack, but we need to make counter-attacks."

Japan have had several injury scares in the build-up to the tournament, with doubts over the fitness of influential midfielder Hidemasa Morita.

Moriyasu said his entire squad was available for selection and wants his team to play "with no regrets".

"We have players in the Bundesliga, playing with or against the best players in the world, and I want them to be confident when they play in tomorrow's game," he said.

Asian teams have suffered a torrid time at the tournament so far, with host nation Qatar losing 2-0 to Ecuador in the opening game and Iran hammered 6-2 by England.

Yoshida urged fans from across Asia to cheer on Japan.

"Germany is so strong so we need some support," he said. "We are representing Japan of course, but at the same time representing Asia.

"So hopefully many fans come to the stadium, not only Japanese but also the many Asian fans."

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