Ghana's No. 1

Takefusa Kubo earns first Japan call-up

Published on: 24 May 2019

Tokyo: J.League teenage star Takefusa Kubo on Thursday received his first call-up to Japan's senior national squad for next month's friendlies against Trinidad and Tobago and El Salvador.

The 17-year-old, an attacking midfielder for J1 side FC Tokyo, was one of three uncapped players named to the squad, joining Yuta Nakayama, 22, a centre-back with Dutch first-division club PEC Zwolle, and Sanfrecce Hiroshima goalkeeper Keisuke Osako, 19.

"We want to incorporate a new generation (of players) and give them deeper exposure to our team tactics," said Samurai Blue head coach Hajime Moriyasu.

Japan will host Trinidad and Tobago on June 5 at Toyota Stadium before facing El Salvador four days later at Hitomebore Stadium Miyagi in northeastern Japan.

The pair of friendlies will serve as warm-ups for the June 14 to July 7 Copa America in Brazil, where Japan will play as an invited nation.

Kubo, who represented Japan at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup, said he expects to feel some trepidation when he joins up with the senior squad for the first time.

"I won't really know until practice or games start, but I'll probably feel some nerves," he said. “This is something I've been aiming at for a long time, so I think it's natural to be nervous."

The youngster, who was among a group of underage players who trained with Japan's 2018 FIFA World Cup squad in Russia, said he looked forward to joining veterans of the tournament such as Shinji Kagawa and Genki Haraguchi for the friendlies.

"I think this is a real learning opportunity," he said. "There are many different things about playing that I can pick up from different people. I want to learn everything I can on and off the pitch."

Veteran goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima returns to the Japan squad for the friendlies following a roughly year-long absence from the national team. The 36-year-old glove-man for French side Strasbourg last played for the Samurai Blue at last year's FIFA World Cup.

Kubo, who was invited to the Barcelona youth academy at age 9, is considered a likely selection for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, where the men's football tournament will be contested by U-23 teams with a limited number of overage players.

A native of Kawasaki near Tokyo, Kubo in March last year became the youngest goal scorer in the history of the Japanese League Cup at 16 years and nine months, netting for FC Tokyo in a 1-0 win over Albirex Niigata.

Sources: Kyodo News Agency, FIFA via Getty Images, J.League


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