World Cup goal for Japan is quarterfinals — at least

TOKYO (AP) — Saying it is one thing, but doing it is another.

Japan soccer coach Hajime Moriyasu repeated his aim again for the World Cup.

“Our goal for the tournament is to reach the quarterfinal — and least,” he said on Tuesday as he named Japan’s 26-player squad. “We know it won’t be easy.”

Perhaps an understatement: Japan is in Group E with Germany and Spain — two former World Cup champions — and Costa Rica, which made the quarterfinals in 2014 in Brazil.

This is Japan’s seventh World Cup appearance, and it has reached the round of 16 on three occasions. In 2018 it lost 3-2 in stoppage time to Belgium after leading 2-0. It also was eliminated by Paraguay on penalties in 2010, and lost to Turkey 1-0 in 2002 when the country co-hosted the event with South Korea.

“Hopefully, we have a different view of the landscape this time,” Moriyasu said.

There were no real surprises on the 26-player squad, certainly not among the first line of players who are expected to play the most.

Defenders Maya Yoshida and Hiroki Sakai will be playing in their third consecutive World Cup. Defender Yuto Nagatomo and goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima will be playing in their fourth.

Japan opens against Germany on Nov. 23, faces Costa Rica on Nov. 27, and Spain on Dec. 1. It will play its last friendly on Nov. 17 against Canada in Dubai.

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Japan squad:

Goalkeepers: Shuichi Gonda, Daniel Schmidt, Eiji Kawashima.

Defenders: Miki Yamane, Hiroki Sakai, Maya Yoshida, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Shogo Taniguchi, Ko Itakura, Hiroki Ito, Yuto Nagatomo, Yuta Nakayama.

Midfielders: Wataru Endo), Hidemasa Morita, Ao Tanaka, Gaku Shibasaki, Kaoru Mitoma, Daichi Kamada, Ritsu Doan, Junya Ito, Takumi Minamino, Takefusa Kubo, Yuki Soma.

Forwards: Daizen Maeda, Takuma Asano, Ayase Ueda.

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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