On 23 March, SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) played an international friendly match against Mali National Team in Stade Maurice Dufrasne, Belgium. Forward NAKAJIMA Shoya (Portimonense S.C.) was brought in as a substitute to make his national team debut and scored the equaliser just before the final whistle as the match ended with a final score of 1-1.
Ahead of the FIFA World Cup Russia in June this year, Japan is in progress of strengthening the national team as well as making the final squad selection. This match against Mali was prepared to simulate their scheduled World Cup opponent Senegal, and it also gave them an opportunity to check out the performance of newly selected players and new combinations.
On his 30th birthday defender UGAJIN Tomoya (Urawa Reds) made his first cap for the national team, playing in the right back. Defenders SHOJI Gen (Kashima Antlers) and MAKINO Tomoaki (Urawa Reds) played as the centre-halves, while goalkeeper NAKAMURA Kosuke (Kashiwa Reysol), who made his national team debut in the EAFF E-1 Football Championship last December, was given the start. In the attacking third, the inform midfielder MORIOKA Ryota (R.S.C. Anderlecht) started in the number ten role, and forward USAMI Takashi (Fortuna Düsseldorf) was positioned in the left wing. Forward KUBO Yuya (KAA Gent) played in the right wing while forward OSAKO Yuya was selected as the lone striker......
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