Japan announces final Asian Cup roster…20 Europeans, including Kubo and Mitoma.

The Japanese national soccer team, one of the biggest favorites to win the Asian Cup for the first time in 64 years, has finalized its roster for the tournament.

The Japan Football Association announced the 26 players who will compete at the 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup under head coach Hajime Moriyasu on its website on Monday. Twenty players are from Europe, representing 77 percent.

A number of Europeans were called up, including Takefusa Kubo (Real Sociedad), who is known to be close to Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain), as well as captain Wataru Endo and Takehiro Tomiyasu, who play for Liverpool and Arsenal (England).

Also on board is forward Kaoru Mitoma (Brighton), who injured his left ankle in an English Premier League (EPL) match against Crystal Palace on March 22.

From the J-League, five players were selected: goalkeepers Daiya Maekawa (Vissel Kobe) and Taishi Nozawa (FC Tokyo), defender Seiya Maikuma (Cerezo Osaka), midfielder Kaishu Sano (Kashima Antlers), and forward Hosoya Mao (Kashiwa Reysol).

Shogo Taniguchi, who plays for Al Rayyan in Qatar, is the only Middle Easterner on the list.

Attacking midfielder Daichi Kamada (Lazio), who has been struggling at his club, was not selected. Oh’s main rival for the position, Furuhashi Kyogo (Celtic), was also not included.

Japan has the highest FIFA ranking (17th) of any team in the AFC. South Korea is ranked 23rd, behind Japan-Iran (21st).

In terms of the bracket, South Korea’s Jürgen Klinsmann-led team will face Japan in the final.

Many observers believe that the match against Japan will be the biggest challenge for Klinsmann’s team, which will attempt to win the 2023 Asian Cup in Qatar for the first time in 64 years since the 1960 edition.

The Japanese national soccer team is unbeaten in its last nine matches.

In June of last year, they thrashed El Salvador 6-0 in a friendly on home soil, followed by a 4-1 win over Peru.

Moving to Europe in September, they shocked the German soccer world with a 4-1 victory over the ‘Tank Corps’. They followed that up with a 4-2 victory over Turkiye in their second A-Match in September.

In October, the team swept Canada (4-1) and Tunisia (2-0) during the A-match, and in November, the team swept Myanmar and Syria 5-0 in the second Asian qualifying round for the 2026 FIFA World Cup North and Central America.

They also smashed another 5-0 in an exhibition match against Thailand at Tokyo National Stadium before the roster announcement.

During their nine-game winning streak, Japan exploded for 39 goals. That’s 4.3 goals per game.

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