The Japanese squad for the second stage of the 2023 Kirin Challenge Cup was announced earlier this morning and saw the long-awaited return from the international wilderness for Kyogo Furuhashi and Reo Hatate.
The duo, who have been key players in Celtic’s treble quest this season had been consistently overlooked by Japanese Head Coach Hajime Moriyasu when naming his recent squads. So much so, that doubts had been raised over both players’ international futures. Moriyasu’s disparaging words about the standard of Scottish football, despite continuing to pick Daizen Maeda, had added fuel to this speculation.
However, today’s recall to the national squad for the upcoming matches against El Salvador and Peru, on June 15th and 20th respectively, should go some way to alleviating those concerns.
For both players, today’s announcement marks their first involvement in a Japan squad since September 2022, when Japan faced Ecuador at the Merkur Spiel Arena in Düsseldorf. Kyogo played the full 90 minutes on that occasion, while Hatate watched the game from the comfort of the substitute’s bench as the sides played out a goalless draw.
Interestingly, the previous meeting between Japan and Ecuador took place during the 2019 Copa America – Japan were invited to take part in the competition as one of two guest nations, the other being Qatar. In the starting line-up that night for Japan was a certain Tomoki Iwata who played the full 90 minutes at right-back. Daizen Maeda also featured off the bench as Japan held Ecuador to a 1-1 draw.
Kyogo and Hatate both have something to prove going into the Kirin Challenge Cup fixtures and will see these games as the perfect opportunity to kick-start their international careers.
Kyogo, who has been in excellent form for Celtic this season, hitting 31 goals in 47 appearance, will be out to transfer his club form to the national team. Prolific at club level, Kyogo has scored just 3 goals in 16 appearances for the Samurai Blue.
With Japan in need of a consistent goal threat in attack, a goal or two in the upcoming games could yet ignite Kyogo’s international ambitions.
Reo Hatate, on the other hand, will see the games as his first real chance to impress on the international stage. The midfield playmaker has made just one appearance for Japan, against Vietnam in a World Cup qualifier last March.
While the competition for places in the Japanese midfield is intense, Hatate has shown both domestically and at the European level for Celtic that he has the ability to cut it with the best. A strong couple of appearances here could be the launchpad for Hatate at international level.
Only time will tell if this recall will mean that Kyogo and Hatate have escaped their international exile which seems to have been thrust upon them since moving to play their football in Scotland. However, despite the annoyance of a reduced summer break for the pair, it should hopefully be an indication that Moriyasu has had a slight change of heart since his visit to the UK.
Seeing more international opportunities for the Japanese Bhoys may help to settle some of the nerves that we won’t be able to keep hold of these talents if they want to have an international career. It is early stages but some impressive performances will give Moriyasu something to think about ahead of the Asian Cup in January.