The Japan national team on Sunday held their first training session since arriving at their camp in the Austrian resort city of Innsbruck, where they are preparing for the World Cup starting June 14 in Russia.
The entire Samurai Blue squad, including Borussia Dortmund midfielder Shinji Kagawa and Pachuca playmaker Keisuke Honda, took part in the session at a ground in Seefeld, on the outskirts of the alpine city in western Austria.
With temperatures around 20 C, they worked up a sweat performing core-strengthening, running and ball skills exercises during the roughly two-hour session, which was attended by some 200 people including pupils from Japanese schools in Vienna and Munich.
Squad members also played a mini game, lining up with the back-three formation trialed by head coach Akira Nishino in the Samurai Blue’s final World Cup warmup on home soil, a 2-0 loss to Ghana at Yokohama’s Nissan Stadium last Wednesday.
(Tomoaki Makino, left, and Keisuke Honda)
Nishino, who took the reins after the shock firing of his predecessor Vahid Halilhodzic in early April, said following the Ghana match that the back-three was just one of the formations he was considering for the World Cup.
Innsbruck, which hosted the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics, is a popular skiing destination near the German border. It has been used as a training base by the Netherlands national team and European professional clubs.
The Samurai Blue players and staff are staying at a resort hotel five minutes’ drive from the training ground, which is nestled among mountains.
Asked about the location of the camp, squad members spoke highly of the quiet, picturesque surroundings.
“When I open the window in the morning, there’s amazing scenery outside,” Galatasaray defender Yuto Nagatomo said. “It’s very relaxing.”
Kagawa, who returned to the Dortmund lineup late in the Bundesliga season after missing two months with an ankle injury, said, “Here, I can just concentrate on soccer.”
The hotel has billiard and table tennis tables, as well as a gym and swimming pool, with the players being encouraged to mingle and strengthen their chemistry on and off the field ahead of the tournament.
“It’s important that players make the most of the opportunity to spend time together, rather than staying in their rooms by themselves,” Urawa Reds center back Tomoaki Makino said.
Japan will play a friendly against Switzerland across the border in the Swiss city of Lugano on Friday, before facing Paraguay in their final World Cup warmup on June 12 in Innsbruck.
The Samurai Blue will base their World Cup camp in the city of Kazan, roughly one and a half hours east of Moscow by air.
They open their World Cup campaign against Colombia in the city of Saransk on June 19. Japan will then face Senegal in Yekaterinburg on June 24 before playing their final group match against Poland in Volgograd on June 28.