Makoto Teguramori’s Japan Under-22 side will get a boost in their upcoming AFC Under-23 qualifiers with the expected participation of two hyped starlets.
Japan Football Association technical director Masahiro Shimoda, who has spent the last week in Europe meeting with potential replacements for recently-fired Japan coach Javier Aguirre, met with officials from Switzerland’s BSC Young Boys and Australia’s Red Bull Salzburg to discuss the status of strikers Yuya Kubo and Takumi Minamino respectively.
With negotiations “nearing completion” according to Nikkan, the pair are expected to play in Japan’s matches against Malaysia, Vietnam, and Macau between March 27 and 31 in Malaysia.
Kubo, who joined the Swiss outfit in 2013, has four goals in 16 appearances this season. He has not represented Japan since playing at the Under-19 level in 2012, the same year in which he became the second high-schooler to receive a Samurai Blue call-up.
Minamino, the latest Cerezo Osaka product to make the jump to Europe, debuted for Salzburg on Saturday in their 2-0 win at Wiener Neustadt. He scored three goals for Japan in last year’s AFC U-19 championship, but missed a crucial penalty kick against North Korea in the quarter-finals which lead to his team’s elimination.
The qualifiers for the U-23 championship, which will take place in Qatar next January, also serve as the first stage of Asian qualification for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.