Japan drop goalkeeper Suzuki for World Cup qualifiers

The inexperienced Zion Suzuki was Japan’s starting goalkeeper at the Asian Cup. (AFP pic)

TOKYO: Goalkeeper Zion Suzuki was dropped from Japan’s squad today as coach Hajime Moriyasu made his selections for next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Myanmar and Syria.

The inexperienced Suzuki was Moriyasu’s first-choice goalkeeper at the Asian Cup in Qatar this year but he made a series of errors before Japan went out in the quarterfinals.

The 21-year-old, whose father is Ghanaian and mother Japanese, was also racially abused online at the tournament.

Japan have already booked their place in the next round of World Cup qualifiers, going through without kicking a ball in March when Fifa said their away game against North Korea would not be rescheduled.

North Korea were supposed to stage the game in the capital Pyongyang but, five days before the game, officials abruptly said the isolated country could not play host, without giving a reason.

Liverpool’s Wataru Endo and Real Sociedad’s Takefusa Kubo were among 26 players named by Moriyasu to face Myanmar in Yangon on June 6 and Syria in Hiroshima five days later.

“In these two games, I’d like to try out some new players and systems and really bed in the tactics heading into the final round of qualifiers,” said Moriyasu.

Moriyasu also omitted winger Junya Ito, who left the Asian Cup after Japanese police said he was under investigation over an alleged sexual assault in Osaka last year.

Ito denies the allegation and is suing his accusers for ¥200 million in damages.

Moriyasu also left Ito out of his squad for World Cup qualifiers in March, saying he wanted to “protect” the player.

Brighton winger Kaoru Mitoma, who has not played for his club since February through injury, was also absent.

Moriyasu handed a first call-up to striker Yuito Suzuki, who plays for Danish side Brondby.


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