0105 GMT February 23, 2019
However, the Samurai Blue were equally quick in calling in reinforcements for their injured stars, foxsportsasia.com reported.
Japan’s World Cup breakout star Takashi Inui, who is currently playing for Real Betis in La Liga, has been drafted in by the Samurai Blue to replace the injured Nakajima ahead of their Asian Cup opener. Meanwhile, Al Ain’s Tsukasa Shiotani has been called up in place of the injured Hidemasa Morita.
Nakajima, who moved to Portuguese club Portimonense during the summer, has impressed over the last six months. So much so, that Premier League clubs Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester United were both said to be interested in his signature.
On the other hand, Morita has been proving his credentials while staying home in Japan. The youngster has helped domestic side Kawasaki Frontale win back-to-back J-League titles.
The Samurai Blue, meanwhile, had already lost Takuma Asano to injury weeks earlier, calling up Newcastle United’s Yoshinori Muto in place of him. And the subsequent loss of Nakajima and Morita have further dented Japan’s title hopes.
Hajime Moriyasu’s men play their first match of the competition on January 9, when they take on Turkmenistan.