PreviewWataru Endo to captain Japan's bid for Asian Cup glory

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By Sam Williams

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Wataru Endo will captain Japan as they seek to win the Asian Cup for a record-extending fifth time.

Endo’s country’s bid to go one better than four years ago, when they were beaten finalists, begins against Vietnam on Sunday.

Read our preview to find out what awaits the Liverpool midfielder at the 2023 edition of the Asian Cup, which is being hosted by defending champions Qatar…

How they qualified

Japan coasted to the finals by winning all eight of their matches in qualification Group F, which also included Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Myanmar.

The Samurai Blue did so while scoring 46 goals and conceding just two.

Group stage

Japan are in Group D alongside Indonesia and Iraq as well as first opponents Vietnam.

The tie with Vietnam will be played at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha on Sunday January 14, before their second match versus Iraq takes place on Friday January 19 at Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan.

Wataru Endo midfielder
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The Samurai Blue then return to Al Thumama Stadium to conclude their group fixtures against Indonesia on Wednesday January 24.

All three games are scheduled to kick off at 11.30am GMT.

Format and dates

Twenty-four teams will take part in the tournament, with competitors initially placed in six groups of four.

The top two sides in each pool will automatically advance to the round of 16, along with the four best third-placed finishers.

The knockout phase of the Asian Cup starts on January 29, with the semi-finals set for February 6 and 7 respectively.

The final will then be held at Lusail Stadium – the venue of the 2022 men’s World Cup final – on Saturday February 10.

Asian Cup record

No nation has won the quadrennial Asian Cup on more occasions than Japan (four times).

The Samurai Blue’s most recent triumph was in 2011, while Endo was part of the squad that reached the final in 2019 where, despite a goal by Takumi Minamino, they lost 3-1 to Qatar.

Endo played in five of Japan’s seven fixtures four years ago, but was an unused substitute during defeat in the final.

What he said

Endo: “Of course I want to stay here [with Liverpool] but as a national team player it is important for me as I am captain. I am now focused on the national team and just doing my best.

“I want to have good results at the Asian Cup, but that’ll mean I have to stay longer in Qatar.

“I want to come back with the Asian Cup title. I’m confident Liverpool can do well in the absence of me and Mo [Salah].”

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