By Daniel Robertson
The Japanese U19 National Team joins the Dallas Cup Super Group for the first time in 2010 as part of their preparations for the Asian Under-19 Championships taking place in China, October 3-17. While the Japanese National Team is new to the Super Group, Japanese club teams are very familiar with the competition as the likes of Urawa Red Diamonds, Consolade Sapporo and Jubilo Iwata are among the J-League teams that have played in the Dallas Cup.
Japan, joining the United States and Mexico as the three national teams in this year's tournament, has enjoyed a mixed level of success at the youth level in recent years. While Japan failed to qualify for the 2009 Youth World Cup in Egypt, they made it to the knockout rounds of the same tournament in the previous three editions. At the U-17 level, Japan finished last in their group at the 2009 World Cup in an extremely difficult group featuring Brazil, Mexico and eventual champions Switzerland.
The Japanese roster (Use Google Chrome to translate the page) features four players from that Japanese U17 World Cup team including two of their four goal scorers in Kenyu Sugimoto (Goal at 1:55) and Shuto Kojima (Goal at 1:58). The attacking engine of the team, however, and one of the top players to watch in the whole tournament is Japanese prodigy Takashi Usami. Usami, just 17 years old made history in Japan as the youngest player to play in a game and score a goal for J-League giants Gamba Osaka. Usami played all but 10 minutes for Japan in their three U17 World Cup games and will be looking to impress the manager as the U19 Asian Championships approach.
The Japan midfield is led by two players with J-League experience in Taishi Taguchi and Daisuke Kikuchi. The rest of the Japan roster is almost entirely made up of the team that finished at the top of their group in their U19 AFC Championship qualifying having outscored their opponents 19-2 with the players playing for a mix of J-League, J-League 2 and university teams. The sky is the limit for this Japanese side which looks to be as exciting an attacking team as we have in the tournament.
Japan opens group stage play on Sunday, March 28th at noon against Mexican side Tigres UANL on Pizza Hut Park Field #6. They continue play the next day against Tottenham at noon on Richland Field #10 before finishing group play vs Dallas Texans on Wednesday, March 31 on the same field against Dallas Texans.
Stay tuned for the Dallas Cup Blog for the final seven team previews as we have just a week left before the start of Dallas Cup XXI on March 28th.
Past Super Group Previews