Since 1998, Japan (the Samurai Blue) have been World Cup ever-presents (常に存在する). What’s more (しかも、その上、おまけに), they’ve enjoyed a large amount of success in the Asian Cup, having won four of the previous eight tournaments.
【 Winner list of the Asian Cup】
🔵 1992 : Japan (host : Japan)
◉ 1996 : Saudi Arabia (host : UAE)
🔵 2000 : Japan (host : Lebanon)
🔵 2004 : Japan (host : China)
◉ 2007 : Iraq (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam)
🔵 2011 : Japan (host : Qatar)
◉ 2015 : Australia (host : Australia)
◉ 2019 : Qatar (host : UAE)
By the way, ever wonder who the best soccer players from Japan are?
This list of best Japanese soccer players is ordered by popularity, so only the greatest players are at the top of the list. “Who are the best Japanese footballers?” and “Who is the greatest Japanese soccer player of all time?”
If you’re a sports lover then you can use this list of popular Japanese soccer players to discover some new athletes that you might really enjoy watching.
In recent years (近年), Japanese footballers have joined European clubs, which has resulted in the game growing increasingly popular throughout the country.
Here, to continue our countdown to the 2022 tournament, We should look at the top 10 players in the history of Japanese football.
★ 10 : Junichi Inamoto 《Read more》
◉ Height : 181cm
◉ Playing position : MF, DF
◉ Born : September 18 , 1979
With his bleached-blond hair, Inamoto was one of the first Japanese players to delve (探求する) into European football. In his case the team was Arsenal, Fulham, WBA, Cardiff City, Galatasaray, Eintracht Frankfurt, State Resnais.
◉ Gamba Osaka (1997 – 2004)
◉ Arsenal (2001 – 2002 loan)
◉ Fulham (2002 – 2004 loan)
◉ West Bromwich Albion (2004 – 2006)
◉ Cardiff City (2004 – 2005 loan)
◉ Galatasaray (2006 – 2007)
◉ Eintracht Frankfurt (2007 – 2009)
◉ Rennes (2009 – 2010)
◉ Kawasaki Frontale (2010 – 2014)
◉ Consadole Sapporo (20015 – 2018)
◉ SC Sagamihara (2019 – )
Someone said, “Also at that time he lacked a little bit of belief in his qualities, because he was a very good footballer. He was still in a period when the Japanese players didn’t feel they were a world – class players.”
A move to Fulham in 2002, he appeared to have reinvigorated (生き返った) the midfielder, with goals being scored against the likes of Manchester United, but a broken leg ended his time in West London. Subsequent (その後の) spells with West Bromwich Albion (WBA) and Cardiff City failed to reignite (再燃させる) the fire and after a brief whistle stop tour of Europe, Inamoto returned home in 2010.
He often produced the goods for Japan, with his finest period coming at the 2002 World Cup. He ended the tournament as his nation’s leading scorer courtesy (礼儀,親切, 好意,優遇) of goals against Belgium and Russia.
Such form saw him entered into the voting for that year’s Ballon d’Or, although he didn’t make the top 20.
☆ 9 : Shinji Okazaki 《Read more》
◉ Height : 174cm
◉ Playing position : FW
◉ Born : April 16 , 1986
Shinji Okazaki plays for Leicester City and the Japan national team as a forward or attacking midfielder. Internationally, he is currently (現在は、今のところ) the top active Japan national team goalscorer and third all-time in team history with 50 goals. He won the Premier League with Leicester in 2016.
◉ Shimizu S-Pulse (2005 – 2010)
◉ VfB Stuttgart (2011 – 2013)
◉ FSV Mainz (2013 – 2015)
◉ Leicester City (2015 – )
The attacker showed his credentials (証明書) during a five-year spell with Shimizu S-Pulse, which earned (もたらす) him a 2010 switch to the Bundesliga with Stuttgart. He struggled to find the net consistently at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, but he has since rediscovered his clinical (冷静な、分析的な) touch with Mainz.
Goals have also been easy to come by at international level. In 2009, he found the net 15 times in 16 matches – more than any other player, while he also scored the only goal of the game as Japan defeated Argentina in 2010. It marked their first ever victory over the two-time world champions.
★ 8 : Yuto Nagatomo 《Read more》
◉ Height : 170cm
◉ Playing position : DF (Left-back)
◉ Born : September 12 , 1986
Yuto Nagatomo has shown his versatility (多才) over the years operating as a full-back and wing-back positions whether on the right or left.
◉ FC Tokyo (2007 – 2011)
◉ A.C. Cesena (2010 – 2011 loan)
◉ Inter Milan (2011 – 2018)
◉ Galatasaray S.K. (2018 – )
Since he joined Inter Milan in 2011 he has been one of the more consistent (首尾一貫した) performers for his team, truly cementing himself as one of the better full backs Serie A has to offer. In his career at Inter Nagatomo has become a mainstay (大黒柱) at one of European football’s powerhouses (精力家), a feat (偉業) not many Asian players have been able to accomplish (成し遂げる).
He is a very energetic and bright guy.
He is everyone’s favorite person ☺️
☆ 7 : Yasuhito Endo 《Read more》
◉ Height : 178cm
◉ Playing position : MF
◉ Born : January 28 , 1980
Unlike (異なり、同じでない) many of his international colleagues, Endo has never been tempted (誘惑する) to test himself overseas. Following (〜の後) stints (任務) early in his career with Yokohama Flugels and Kyoto Purple Sanga, he has been with Gamba Osaka since 2001.
His refusal to try his hand in Europe has not hampered (妨げる) his international career either, having turned out for the Samurai Blue more times than any other player.
A two-time winner of the Asian Cup in 2004 and 2007, Endo also scored one of the goals in the 3-1 win over Denmark at the 2010 World Cup.
◉ Yokohama Flugels (1998 – 1999)
◉ Kyoto Purple Sanga (1999 – 2001)
◉ Gamba Osaka (2001 – )
He is considered a cult hero at Gamba Osaka, the Japan National Football Team. It is because he has formidable (恐るべき、手強い) passing ability, leadership, and goal scoring ability.
He is also known for his excellent accuracy (正確さ) on free kicks and is revered (崇められている) as one of Japan’s most creative midfielders as well as one of the most talented Japanese footballers and playmakers of his generation, despite only playing domestically in his home country.
In 2009, he was named “Player of the Year” by the Asian Football Confederation. In 2011, he became the first J. League player to be named in the J League Best Eleven 9 times.
★ 6 : Makoto Hasebe 《Read more》
◉ Height : 180cm
◉ Playing position : DF, MF
◉ Born : January 18 , 1984
Makoto Hasebe is a defensive midfielder who plays for Eintracht Frankfurt. And he played for Japanese national football team for which he served as captain.
He began soccer attracted by “Captain Tsubasa” at the age of 3 years old. After graduating from high school in 2002, he joined Urawa Red Diamonds (J League team).
◉ Urawa Red Diamonds (2002 – 2007)
◉ VfL Wolfsburg (2008 – 2013)
◉ FC Nurnberg (2013 -2014 )
◉ Eintracht Frankfurt (2014 – )
In 2009, he became the second Japanese player to win the Bundesliga title.
Hasebe has added the role of defensive playmaker to his repertoire, mopping up attacks and starting moves in the same way as the great Franz Beckenbauer, the archetypal (典型的な) sweeper. Moreover (その上、さらに), Hasebe appears to be thriving (繁華な、盛んな、成功して)in his new discipline (訓練、修養、規律).
“I feel good playing at sweeper because I can help the team with my experience,” he said. “You’re under less pressure than in midfield, so you have more time on the ball. I’m happy that the coach has found this role for me.”
Former Japan national team captain Makoto Hasebe was named the 2018 AFC Asian International Player of the Year at the 2018 AFC Annual Awards.
He skippered (船長、率いる) Japan in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia where the Blue Samurai were the only Asian team to advance to the knockout stage before suffering a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat to Belgium in the Round of 16.
It was his third FIFA World Cup as Japan captain, having also skippered the side who emerged (現れる) champions in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. He announced his retirement from international football after the FIFA World Cup, having made 114 appearances for Japan.
☆ 5 : Shinji Ono 《Read more》
◉ Height : 175cm
◉ Playing position : MF
◉ Born : September 27 , 1979
Shinji Ono plays as a midfielder for J1 League club Consadole Sapporo. Known as “Genius”. Ono is one of the biggest stars in Asian football, known for his vision, technique and superb (素晴らしい、実に見事な) passing. Although his primary (主な、最初の、基本の、第一の) position is attacking midfielder, he can play anywhere in the midfield, including defensive midfield and either wing.
He began his professional career with Urawa Red Diamonds in the J League in 1998. The same year, he became the youngest Japanese player to play at 1998 FIFA World Cup, at age 18.
He caught the attention of foreign clubs with his performance at the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship, where he captained the Japanese Under-20 side that reached the final. But later that year, he suffered a severe knee injury…
◉ Urawa Red Diamonds (1998 – 2001)
◉ Feyenoord (2001 – 2005)
◉ Urawa Red Diamonds (2006 – 2007)
◉ VfL Bochum (2008 – 2009)
◉ Shimizu S-Pulse (2010 – 2012)
◉ Western Sydney Wanderers (2012 – 2014)
◉ Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo (2014 – )
After his appearance in the 1998 World Cup, he was a key member of the Japanese squad (チーム) in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. He has represented (代表する、象徴する) Japan at every age level starting with the U-16 team, and was one of three overage selections at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Injuries limited Ono to just one appearance in the final round of the qualifiers for the 2006 World Cup and missed the Confederations Cup in 2003 and 2005. He played in his third World Cup finals in Germany (2006).
Wesley Sneijder (Dutch footballer) says “he is one of the best players I faced it so far.”
★ 4 : Shunsuke Nakamura 《Read more》
◉ Height : 178cm
◉ Playing position : MF
◉ Born : June 24 , 1978
Shunsuke Nakamura plays as an attacking midfielder for Jubilo Iwata in J1 League. He is the first and only person to have been named J.League Most Valuable Player more than once, receiving the award in 2000 and 2013. He is well known for his vision, touch, bending shots and free kick-taking abilities.
◉ Yokohama・F・Marinos (1997 – 2002)
◉ Reggina (2002 – 2005)
◉ Celtic (2005 – 2009)
◉ Espanyol (2009 – 2010)
◉ Yokohama・F・Marinos (2010 – 2016)
◉ Jubilo Iwata (2017 – )
He began his professional career with J1 League club Yokohama Marinos in 1997. After that, he played in Europe with Reggina, Celtic, Espanyol.
During his time at Celtic, he became one of the best Asian players to have ever played in Europe; he was nominated for the 2007 Ballon d’Or, was named Scottish Player of the year in 2007, and SFWA Footballer of the Year in 2007, and became the first Japanese player to score in the UEFA Champions League.
He has 98 caps and 24 goals for the Japanese national football team, including appearances in the FIFA World Cup finals in 2006 and 2010 and winning the AFC Asian Cup in 2000 and 2004.
He produced some memorable moments during his four years at Parkhead. He was linked with a host of clubs, including Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, prior (より前に、重要で、先の) to his move to Scotland in 2005, but he soon showed that the battle for his signature was worth the effort.
He became the first Japanese player to win a player of the year award in a major European soccer league.
☆ 3 : Keisuke Honda 《Read more》
◉ Height : 182cm
◉ Playing position : MF, FW
◉ Born : June 13 , 1986
Keisuke Honda plays for Australian club Melbourne Victory and also general manager and coach of the Cambodia national team. He plays as an attacking midfielder, but he can equally play as a second striker or a deep-lying playmaker. Honda has frequently featured as a right winger in the 2014-2015 Serie A season. He is also known for his free-kicks, dribbling and ability as a dead ball specialist.
He has earned over 90 international caps since 2008, playing at the 2010, 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cup and winning the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, where he was also voted Player of the Tournament.
◉ Nagoya Grampus (2005 – 2007)
◉ VVV-Venlo (2008 – 2009)
◉ CSKA Moscow (2010 – 2013)
◉ AC Milan (2014 – 2017)
◉ CF Pachuca (2017 – 2018)
◉ Melbourne Victory (2018 – )
A quick, creative, strong, and energetic player, he is also known for his accuracy from bending free-kicks, powerful striking ability from distance, dribbling skills, and delivery as a dead ball specialist.
He is the first Japanese player to score in three FIFA World Cups (2010, 2014, and 2018). His club career has taken him to Holland, Russia, Italy, Mexico and Australia.
★ 2 : Hidetoshi Nakata 《Read more》
◉ Height : 175cm
◉ Playing position : MF
◉ Born : January 22 , 1977
Hidetoshi Nakata is a retired Japanese football player. He is widely considered to be one of the most famous and greatest Asian footballers of all time. He began his professional career in 1995 and won the Asian Football Confederation Player of the Year award in 1997 and 1998, the Scudetto with A.S. Roma in 2001, played for Japan in three FIFA World Cup tournaments (1998, 2002 and 2006) and played in the Olympics twice (1996 and 2000).
In 2005, he was made the Knight of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity (結束、一致、団結、連携), one of Italy’s highest honors, for improving the country’s image overseas. He has also been involved in (〜に関わる) fashion, regularly attending runway shows and wearing designer clothing.
◉ Bellmare Hiratsuka (1995 – 1998)
◉ Perugia (1998 – 2000)
◉ AS Roma (2000 – 2001)
◉ Parma (2001 – 2004)
◉ Bologna (2004 , loan)
◉ Fiorentina (2004 – 2006)
◉ Bolton Wanderers (2005 – 2006, loan)
Nakata announced his retirement at age 29 in 2006, after a ten-year career that included seven seasons in the Italian Serie A and a season in the English Premier League. In 2004, Pele named Nakata in his FIFA 100, a list of the top living footballers at the time. Nakata was the only Japanese, and one of only two Asian footballers to be named on the list.
It seemed a huge waste of talent with Nakata called time on his career at the age of 29. After all, he’d had a big impact in Italy, winning the Serie A title with AS Roma in 2001, before helping Parma to lift the Coppa Italia a year later at the expense of Juventus.
He was a quick, creative offensive minded midfielder with a keen (鋭い) eye for goal; his defining (明らかにする、定義する) trait (特徴) however was his overall (総体的な) technical ability, his passing and his vision to spot a pass made him stand out (際立つ、目立つ).
Nakata rose to prominence (目立つこと、卓越、傑出、名声) during the 1998 World Cup at the age of 21, his performances particularly against Argentina made the world stand up and pay attention; subsequently (その後、続いて) leading to a move to Serie A side Perugia. He managed to cope with (対処する) the step up in standard and became an instant success and in doing so broke a lot of Italian stereotypes surrounding asian players.
☆ 1 : Shinji Kagawa 《Read more》
◉ Height : 175cm
◉ Playing position : MF
◉ Born : March 17 , 1989
Shinji Kagawa plays for German club Borussia Dortmund and the Japan national team for a long time. Kagawa began his professional career in his homeland with Cerezo Osaka before joining Borussia Dortmund in 2010. After two years with Dortmund, Kagawa signed for Manchester United on a four-year contract. Two years later, he returned to Dortmund. A goal-scoring midfielder, he is known for his “vision, technique, movement and deft passing.”
In 2019, he plays for Turkish club Besiktas, on loan from Dortmund. He holds the records for most appearances and goals by a Japanese player in UEFA club competitions. Since making his senior international debut in 2008, he has won over 90 caps and scored over 30 goals.
◉ Cerezo Osaka (2006 – 2010)
◉ Borussia Dortmund (2010 – 2012)
◉ Manchester United (2012 – 2014)
◉ Borussia Dortmund (2014 2019)
◉ Besiktas (2019 – )
He will be regarded as Japan’s best ever footballer. He helped Dortmund to win the Bundesliga twice during his two seasons with the club. His omission (怠慢) from the 2010 World Cup squad raised eyebrows, but he returned the following year to help Japan win the Asian Cup. In 2012, Kagawa was named Asian Football Confederation International Player of the Year.
Shinji Kagawa is the best Asian player of his generation. He warrants (保証する,正当な理由となる、当然である) a place over other contemporary (同時代の) rivals such as Shinji Okazaki, Ki Seung Yueng, Son Hueng-Min and Keisuke Honda. All four are very talented individuals though.
Kagawa has the ability to decide matches on his own. He also beats his iconic (肖像の) countrymen Nakata for a place on the podium (演壇、表彰台), because unlike Nakata, Kagawa played a starring (きらめくこと) role in his team Borussia Dortmund title winning conquests (獲得).
He made a storming start to his Borussia Dortmund career in 2010/11 his performances during the first half of the campaign gained wide acclaim (喝采) until his season was cut short due to injury.
Nevertheless (それにも関わらず), he was named in the Bundeliga team of the season and his team Borussia Dortmund went on to win the title.