Japan vs Brazil: Five Japanese starlets to look out for tonight

The Samurai Blue are blooding exciting new talent in the run up to their Asian Cup title defence and tonight against Brazil will be no different. editor Zee Ko gives you the lowdown on five young players to watch out for.

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Gaku Shibasaki (22, midfielder, Kashima Antlers)

Talented youngster Shibasaki made the best possible impression upon his introduction to the international stage.

Many felt he should have been called up much earlier, but when he showed just why when he finally made his debut for the Samurai Blue against Venezuela last month. As teammate Shinji Okazaki sped down the left flank and cut in towards goal, Shibasaki made a late run into the box from the right side. Okazaki's cross into the box left the opposition defence all at sea, as Shibasaki made no mistake with a sumptious half-volley to put Japan 2-1 up.

His second outing in Japan colours was no less impressive, as he somehow managed to get a cross away despite being chased by three defenders. At such close range, a fourth defender in Nyron Nosworthy had no time to react, as the ball deflected off him for the winner.

Comfortable with either foot, Shibasaki has been hailed in some quarters as the next Yasuhito Endo. High praise indeed.

Gotoku Sakai (23, defender, VfB Stuttgart)

Born in New York to a Japanese father and a German mother, Sakai started off as an attacking midfielder in his youth. Now an attacking fullback, the Japanese youngster is seen as one of the brightest young sparks in Japanese football.

Sakai came through the Albirex Niigata youth academy system, making his first team debut for the club at the age of 17. The teenager duly signed professional terms the very next year. There was no hiding his potential and Stuttgart came calling in 2012, with Sakai moving to the Bundesliga on a one year loan. The Japanese fullback impressed so much that he soon nailed down a regular spot in the German team and the deal was made permanent the very next season.

Aggressive in both defence and attack, Sakai is definitely one to look out for now and in the near future.

Photo: Andrew Him/Junpiter Futbol

Yoichiro Kakitani (24, forward, FC Basel)

Former J-League ace Kakitani made a splash when he became Cerezo Osaka's youngest-ever professional at the age of 16.

Displaying immense promise in more than 100 league appearances for the Japanese club since his debut in 2006, the striker also made waves internationally after a sensational goal from the halfway line against France at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.

Goals are his forte and it came as no surprise when he scored on his full international debut for Japan against China in the 2013 East Asian Cup, also going on to claim the top-scorer award after the Samurai Blue won the competition.

Finally earning a move to Europe with Swiss club FC Basel, the dangerous forward will be looking to impress against Brazil.

Photo: Andrew Him/Junpiter Futbol

Yoshinori Muto (22, forward, FC Tokyo)

Another recent debutant under Javier Aguirre, Muto is already shaping up as a handy forward option in the Mexican coach's arsenal.

A hardworking striker who is not afraid to go for the ball, Muto did his chances no harm after opening his international account for Japan in only his second game. Shrugging off a challenge in the match against Venezuela, the striker hardly broke stride as he calmly slotted the ball past the advancing goalkeeper to give Japan the lead.

Muto has also been in lethal form for FC Tokyo in the J-League this season, scoring 11 goals in 25 games. Aguirre will be happy to know he can call on someone who knows how to find the back of the net regularly.

Photo: Andrew Him/Junpiter Futbol

Ryota Morioka (23, midfielder, Vissel Kobe)

Just a season ago, Morioka was playing in J-League 2 with Vissel Kobe. The team had been relegated after a disappointing season, but were determined to bounce right back at the first time of asking.

The attacking midfielder duly played a part in their revival, as he scored five goals in 18 games to help lift the club back into the top division. His performances put him on the national team radar, and it was no surprise when Aguirre finally gave him a call up to the national team after more good showings this season.

Morioka now has three goals and 10 assists in the J-League this season, but will be eager to open his account for his country before too long. Opponents Brazil could prove a tempting scalp if he gets a chance to strut his stuff on the field.

Photo: Andrew Him/Junpiter Futbol

Japan vs Brazil kicks off at the National Stadium at 6.45pm. Fans who have not managed to get their hands on tickets can still watch the game live on Supersports Arena (StarHub Ch 112 or 205)