Bundesliga’s Japanese contingent on “equal footing” ahead of World Cup

Japan forward Daichi Kamada says his large contingent of Bundesliga players can derive mental strength from knowing they “share the same stage” as first-World Cup opponents Germany.

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Japan’s squad for the finals in Qatar includes eight Germany-based players, more than any other national league – including Japan’s first-division J1 League. Nine Japanese players play in the first division of the Bundesliga, seven of whom have been selected in the squad for Qatar. Qatar-bound midfielder Aoi Tanaka also plays in Germany for Fortuna Düsseldorf in the second division.

The 26-year-old Kamada, who has scored 12 goals in all competitions for Frankfurt this season, will be one of Japan’s most important players in Qatar.

“There are a lot of Japanese players in the Bundesliga now and I think we are now on par with them (the German national team),” Kamada told AFP.

“When I first arrived in the Bundesliga from Japan, I was playing against players from Bayern and the Germany national team. But when I was playing in Japan, there were only one or two players from the Japan national team.

“It was strange to play against players I had seen before, but … I think sharing the same stage with them has a big impact on us mentally.”

Qatar-bound Freiburg winger Ritsu Doon said Japan’s largely European-based squad – 21 of 26 players – showed enough depth to upset not only Germany, but fellow group heavyweights Spain.

“There are players playing not only in Germany, but also in the five major leagues at a high level, and I think we can compete with 26 players (in our squad),” Don told AFP.

“I think it is positive that all players are competing at a high level, not only in the Bundesliga, but in general.”

‘We can compete’

The high representation of Japanese players in Germany is more than just a statistical quirk.

Germany has a long history of discovering and recruiting Japanese players, dating back to 1977, when Yasuhiko Okudera made his debut for Cologne, becoming the first Japanese footballer to play professionally in Europe.

Okudera told AFP that a lot has changed since his decade-long stints with Cologne, Hertha Berlin and Werder Bremen, namely that Japanese players have proved their ability to compete at the highest level.

Okudera said, “In those days, it was very strict… It was hard to get into.”

“Now (the Bundesliga) has become a place where we can compete on the same pitch as players from Africa, South/Central America and the rest of the world.”

Perhaps the highest profile Japanese player in recent years, the former Manchester United midfielder Shinji KagawaWas recruited directly from Japan to Jürgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund, before a high-profile move to the Premier League two years later.

‘an advantage’

Japan and Germany play each other in Group E’s first fixture on November 23, but whether playing week in and week out against their many opponents will be an advantage remains to be seen.

Okudera said that Japan’s familiarity with Germany and the Bundesliga would be “an advantage”, but could also favor Germany.

“On the one hand, it would be an advantage, and on the other, the other side knows us (better).”

japan captain Maya YoshidaThe man, who joined Schalke in the summer, told AFP: “I’m not sure whether it will (will be profitable) or not.”

“I think it’s good that we understand German, like for set plays etc.

“Experience of playing with such players and knowing their characteristics is definitely a plus – but it’s the same for the opponent”

Yoshida, who moved to Schalke from Serie A’s Sampdoria in the summer, joked that his move to the Bundesliga may have been made with the World Cup in mind.

Yoshida said, “That’s why I play here.”

(This story has not been edited by staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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