Tokyo (AFP) – Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu named former Barcelona youth star Takefusa Kubo in his 26-man squad for the World Cup on Tuesday, with Brighton winger Kaoru Mitoma also bound for Qatar.
The Blue Samurai have been drawn with Germany, Spain and Costa Rica in a tough Group E and will look to Kubo and fellow attacker Mitoma to provide the spark.
Kubo, 21, was invited to join Barcelona’s La Masia academy at the age of nine and was known as the “Japanese Messi” early on in his precocious career.
He joined Real Sociedad at the start of this season on a permanent deal after being loaned out several times during three years with Real Madrid, and has already won 19 caps for Japan.
Mitoma joined Brighton this summer after a year on loan at Belgium’s Union SG and recovered from an injury scare to make Japan’s squad.
Former Southampton defender Maya Yoshida will captain the side in his third World Cup, while left-back Yuto Nagatomo and goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima have been named in their fourth finals squads.
Eintracht Frankfurt attacker Daichi Kamada and Monaco’s Takumi Minamino have also been included in a squad that contains just six domestic-based players.
Moriyasu picked Ko Itakura despite the defender not having played for Borussia Monchengladbach after he suffered a knee injury in September.
Celtic’s Reo Hatate and Kyogo Furuhashi missed out on selection, although club team-mate Daizen Maeda made the cut.
Japan start their World Cup campaign against Germany on November 23 before taking on Costa Rica on November 27 and Spain on December 1.
Goalkeepers: Shuichi Gonda (Shimizu S-Pulse), Eiji Kawashima (Strasbourg/FRA), Daniel Schmidt (Sint-Truiden/BEL)
Defenders: Yuto Nagatomo (FC Tokyo), Maya Yoshida (Schalke/GER), Takehiro Tomiyasu (Arsenal/ENG), Hiroki Sakai (Urawa Reds), Yuta Nakayama (Huddersfield Town/ENG), Shogo Taniguchi (Kawasaki Frontale), Ko Itakura (Borussia Moenchengladbach/GER), Miki Yamane (Kawasaki Frontale), Hiroki Ito (Stuttgart/GER)
Midfielders: Wataru Endo (Stuttgart/GER), Hidemasa Morita (Sporting/POR), Ao Tanaka (Fortuna Dusseldorf/GER), Daichi Kamada (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Junya Ito (Reims/FRA), Kaoru Mitoma (Brighton/ENG), Takumi Minamino (Monaco/FRA), Yuki Soma (Nagoya Grampus), Gaku Shibasaki (Leganes/ESP), Takefusa Kubo (Real Sociedad/ESP), Ritsu Doan (Freiburg/GER)
Forwards: Daizen Maeda (Celtic/SCO), Takuma Asano (Bochum/GER), Ayase Ueda (Cercle Brugge/BEL)