Takehiro Tomiyasu had been preparing himself to face Thiago Alcantara at the World Cup, before finding out that the Liverpool midfielder had not made the Spain squad.
Arsenal defender Tomiyasu is in the Japan squad who are preparing to face Germany in their opening match in Qatar on Wednesday afternoon. Japan are in Group E alongside the Germans, Costa Rica and Spain and face a difficult task to make the knockout stages of the tournament.
That task could be easier, in Tomiyasu’s eyes at least, with Thiago absent from the Spain team Japan will face on December 1. Speaking to the press at the World Cup, Tomiyasu was asked to name his favourite Spanish player.
He replied: “Thiago.” He was then informed that the Liverpool midfielder had not made Luis Enrique’s 26-man squad for the tournament. He reacted in shock, saying: “He’s not coming?! Sorry, I didn’t know that!”
Thiago has struggled with injuries at Liverpool this season, but his absence was still a surprise, given his experience and quality. Enrique decided instead to select Sergio Busquets, Rodri, Gavi, Carlos Soler, Marcos Llorente, Pedri, Koke as his midfield options.
He is far from the only big name to miss out, with Manchester United’s David de Gea and Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga among those watching the tournament at home. Enrique explained his decisions before the World Cup kicked off.
“The message is of thanks. I know it’s a disappointment. They deserved to be here, but only 26 can be in the squad,” he said.
Thiago Alcantara didn’t make the Spain squad for the World Cup
“If it were a normal World Cup, we would integrate the physical needs into the training, but halfway through the season we are not going to work on the physical level of a player.
“I’m not going to go into the players that aren’t on the list. I thank everyone who has helped us get here, but now the important ones are the 26 called up. We have a lot of young people, but also veterans. There is a good mix.”
Tomiyasu, meanwhile, is fit to play in Japan’s opening match against Germany, despite limping out of Arsenal’s Europa League match against FC Zurich on November 3. “I am ready to play, I was injured three weeks ago, but I feel fine now and I am ready,” he told a press conference. “We have enough quality to beat them, of course we have to be confident, but we have to find the balance,” the 24-year-old said at the Japan training base in Qatar.
“We have to be humble and realistic sometimes, but we are trying to beat them and we are ready to beat them. Germany is one of the most difficult opponents in the world, but anything can happen in football, and we will make it happen.”