Takuma Asano could get an unlikely call up to the Japan squad to replace Shinji Okazaki who picked up a calf injury.
An article from Yahoo! Japan states that Japan manager, Akira Nishino, will make a ‘shock’ call to the Arsenal youngster who is on his country’s reserve list.
In May, Japan named Asano alongside 26 others in their preliminary squad, boosting the Arsenal man’s chances of travelling to the tournament.
But only 23 players can make the final squad, and Nishino decided to opt for experience, dropping the 23-year-old.
Yosuke Ideguchi, Kenta Misao and Toshihiro Aoyama were the other players from the preliminary squad to miss out. Aoyama withdrew over injury concerns, but Nishino explained why he dropped the other three in a press conference.
“All three are incredibly promising and they contributed a lot to get us to this point,” he said. “But in considering their top performance level I wasn’t able to include them. I think they will carry Japan in the future.”
In all honesty, with the season Asano had at club level, it was surprising to see him included in the first place, so to get the nod now for the tournament would indeed be ‘shocking’. The forward had a pretty terrible time with Stuttgart last season.
He made 18 appearances for the first team in 2017/18, the last of which came in December 2017. He scored one goal and provided one assist in total, and only made the squad four times in 2018.
Dropping down to the Stuttgart second team, he scored once and assisted once in two appearances. It wasn’t enough to get him another first team opportunity though.
Asano will spend next season on loan again, this time with Hannover 96. It will be his third loan in three years, after he spent time with Stuttgart for the last two seasons.
“I’m very happy to come to Hanover,” Asano said when the move was announced. “I’m going to go full throttle to repay the club’s confidence in me and make the 96 fans happy.”
Coach Andre Breitenreiter seemed similarly pleased to get a deal over the line, insisting that the club have a lot of belief in the Japanese international’s potential.
“Takuma is a versatile offense player, he adds a lot of speed and action on the pitch,” Breitenreiter said. “At the same time he has a strong mentality. We are convinced that he has great potential to evolve at Hannover 96 and make his next step.”
Japan get their World Cup underway against Colombia on Tuesday with a 1pm kick-off (UK). They will also face Senegal and Poland in Group H.