Defensive midfielder Wataru Endo on Friday continued his bid to return to the Japan starting lineup after sitting out their opening AFC Asian Cup clash in the United Arab Emirates following a bout of illness.
A regular starter under new manager Hajime Moriyasu, the 25-year-old remained on the bench for Japan’s underwhelming 3-2 win over group F opponents Turkmenistan on Wednesday after coming down with a fever on the day of their departure for the tournament.
The Sint-Truiden holder’s absence was felt during the match, with the unheralded Central Asians repeatedly counterattacking through the center of the pitch after Moriyasu started Endo’s club teammate, center-back Takehiro Tomiyasu, in a less-familiar midfield role.
At practice in Abu Dhabi on Friday, Endo was focused on proving his fitness for Japan’s second group-stage outing against Oman on Sunday.
«It’s important for everyone to be ready. I need to think about what kind of impact I can make upon entering a match,» Endo said.
With his strong read of the game, the former Urawa Reds and Shonan Bellmare player was able to help influence the contest against Turkmenistan by providing coaching from the sidelines.
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But Endo, a member of Japan’s World Cup squad who did not see playing time last summer in Russia, is eager to make his mark on the pitch.
«I’ve been training with the desire to play. After this, it’s up to the manager to decide. I just have to prepare as best I can,» he said.
World No. 50 Japan are once again strongly favored against 82nd-ranked Oman, but will not be taking anything for granted after struggling to assert control against 127th-ranked Turkmenistan.
The Samurai Blue are currently on top of Group F by virtue of having scored more goals than second-place Uzbekistan, who beat Oman 2-1 in their opening game.
After meeting Oman at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City Stadium, Japan will play their final group-stage fixture against Uzbekistan at Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium, also in Abu Dhabi, next Thursday.
The top two teams in each of the six groups will advance to the knockout stage, along with the four best third-placed teams.
All — Kyodo News+