1984 World Cup Squads: Eastasia

Here we go again, people. It’s a bright, cold day in April, the clocks are striking thirteen, and we’re back with another bout of football in the state of extreme socialism, and this time we’re on the Orient, looking at the footballing men of Eastasia to concoct the best amalgamated team possible. Except, this one’s gonna be a sh*tshow.

Based on the Orwellian borders that our overlord George provided us with, we have the great nations of; China, India, Japan, and the two Koreas. And given we’re building a football team here, that essentially rules out India and North Korea. And China only has like, a few players to work with. And even then, it’s not like I’m very well-versed in the footballers of Japan and South Korea.

I’ve done my best here, and I think the players I’ve picked out are the best ones on offer, and I think it’s best we jump into this list and get it over and done with before the thought police come in and do unpleasant things to me.

Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima, Jo Hyeon-Woo & Yan Junling

I won’t pretend I know anything about the three goalkeepers I’ve selected here, and this will be a running theme throughout the article. Anyway, it seems clear to me that Japan’s Eiji Kawashima has earned his place as this team’s number one, having amassed a total of 91 appearances for the national team. I also remember Jo Hyeon-Woo having an impressive World Cup in Russia, especially in South Korea’s 2-0 win over Germany, and since he seems to still have a prominent role in his respective national team, I’ll stick him in as back-up. 

Chinese shot-stopper Yan Junling sits on the bench as our third-choice ‘keeper, having made over 300 appearances for Shanghai SIPG, and is China’s current number one. I swear I did my best here.

Right-Backs: Hiroki Sakai & Lee Yong

This is a rare instance in this list of me actually being aware of one of the players available to me and being able to talk about him, so we should enjoy this moment while we can. Hiroki Sakai is my undisputed first-choice right-back for this team, having earned 61 caps for Japan and played (mostly) regular football for Marseille over the past four years, consistently proving his quality in the upper echelons of the European game. 

I’m also going to try and be inclusive and pick as many Chinese players as I possibly can for this team, since I basically have three nations to pick from here. Sadly for Tang Miao, however, my back-up for this position is South Korea’s Lee Yong, an experienced full-back sitting pretty on 45 caps for his country.

Centre-Backs: Maya Yoshida, Kim Young-gwon, Takehiro Tomiyasu & Zhang Linpeng

We’re finally mixing things up in the starting XI, bringing in a South Korean! I know, it’s a big move, but he’s alongside another Japanese star just to bring the peace. We can’t be going too rogue after all.

It’s becoming very apparent to me that Japan have the strongest players out of these three nations, and their captain Maya Yoshida is their representative at centre-back. Most of you here will probably be familiar with Yoshida from his eight years at Southampton, and he’s wracked up almost 200 appearances for the Saints, currently finding himself out on loan at Sampdoria. He’s partnered by Kim Young-gwon of Gamba Osaka, who has 78 caps for South Korea, and scored the first goal in their win over Germany at the 2018 World Cup. If you couldn’t tell, international caps have a lot to do with my line of thinking.

That doesn’t stop Takehiro Tomiyasu finding his way onto the bench though, as the 21-year-old seems well on his way to a decent career in the game, having recently moved to Bologna. And to give China some more representation, as promised, we have the wise old head of Zhang Linpeng, bringing his 79 national caps and eight Chinese Super League titles to the Eastasia bench.

Left-Backs: Yuto Nagatomo & Kim Jin-su

It’s a similar story on our left flank as it is on the right, with our first choice being from the Japanese team and their back-up being from South Korea.

The experienced Yuto Nagatomo comfortably finds his way into this team, with 122 international caps and over 200 games for Inter Milan to his name, bringing a comparatively high amount of European pedigree to the squad. In relation to most of the others, that is. He’s joined by Kim Jin-su, who currently plays for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, and has done since 2017 after a stint at Hoffenheim. Again, my apologies to the Chinese candidate Li Lei here, but I think Nagatomo and Kim are the best we can do for this team.

Central Midfielders: Ki Sung-yeung, Makoto Hasebe, Park Joo-ho & Koo Ja-cheol

I won’t lie, I’m not sure this really is the strongest midfield there is available, so if anyone can more well informed than me can provide some new and potentially better players, well that’d be swell. But it’s the one area which the Koreans seemed to have one-upped the Japanese, so props to them for that I guess.

For now, we’re going with a starting midfield duo of Ki Sung-yeung and Makoto Hasebe. Premier League followers will remember South Korean Ki from his time at Swansea, Sunderland and Newcastle, where he made a reputable name for himself with his vision and passing. He’s currently plying his trade for Mallorca at age 31, though he retired from international duty in 2019 after amassing 110 caps for the Tigers. His partner, Hasebe, also retired from international football with Japan after the 2018 World Cup, but they’re both still playing at club level, so we’re throwing them in here. A former Japanese captain who has spent the past 12 years playing in the Bundesliga, the 36-year-old brings a wealth of experience to the team. 

On the bench, we’ve South Korean representatives Park Joo-ho and Koo Ja-cheol. Koo is yet another player in this team to have spent most of his career in the Bundesliga, turning out for the likes of Wolfsburg, Mainz and Augsburg, whilst Park had less successful stints at Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, but remains an important player for his national team.

Shout-out to Hao Junmin of China, who’s pretty close to edging his way into this team.

Central Attacking Midfielders: Shinji Kagawa & Keisuke Honda

In yet another Japan-centric decision, I’ve gone with two players who have certainly had their best days put behind them, but are still probably the best options we’ve got to work with here.

In the starting XI is Shinji Kagawa, who, depending on which Manchester United fans you ask, was either completely useless and couldn’t cut it in the Premier League, or was just never allowed his big opportunity to shine. The form he’s shown during his two spells at Borussia Dortmund, however, have shown what a class act he is on his day, and his creativity in midfield is a great asset for most top teams. 

His back-up, Honda, is currently in the unusual position of still playing football at club level, but in his spare time managing the Cambodia national team. You couldn’t make this stuff up. If he finds himself too busy to come in and appease the Party, then I reckon youngster Kang-in Lee is a pretty safe bet, and appears to have a very bright future ahead of him, as does Japan starlet Ritsu Doan. There’s also Elkeson, a star of the Chinese Super League for the last few years, but since he only switched his allegiance to China from Brazil last year, I didn’t want to stir up anything controversial by including him. Good player though. 

Right Wingers: Takumi Minamino & Genki Haraguchi

We’re going pretty Japan-heavy on the right side of the midfield, but in fairness that’s because it appears strangely overloaded in that position, while the other two nations don’t really have anyone of note. Takefusa Kubo, Junya Ito and Daichi Kamada are all worthy of mentions here, but there seems little doubt in my mind that Takumi Minamino and Genki Haraguchi are going the be the Eastasian representatives for this squad.

Minamino may not have found his best form since his £8million move to Liverpool in January, but given time he’ll surely prove his worth, demonstrating the goalscoring knack and tricky dribbling ability that made him such a hit at Red Bull Salzburg. Haraguchi, meanwhile, has spent the last half of his career over in the Bundesliga, where he’s earned the majority of his 51 Japanese caps and made a decent little career for himself. He also scored the first goal in Japan’s heartbreaking loss to Belgium at the 2018 World Cup. Apart from that, you may have to wiki him.

Left Wingers: Son Heung-min & Takashi Inui

We arrive on the left wing, and after a whole article basically exposing how much better Japan are than their AFC rivals, our star man appears in the guise of South Korea’s Son Heung-min. Funny how things work out, eh?

Anyone who follows the Premier League knows how spectacular Son has been for Tottenham over the past five years, becoming the highest-scoring Asian player in the division’s history with 51 goals at the time of writing, and is the current captain of his country. With electric pace, excellent dribbling and composed finishing, Son is one of the best players in the Premier League right now, if not the world. It’s just a shame about the team he plays for.

His back-up, Japan’s Takashi Inui, can’t boast the same statistics or pedigree as his South Korean counterpart, but he’s a solid option to have on the bench. Now aged 31, the experienced winger is currently in his second spell with Spanish side Eibar, and you may remember his two goals at the 2018 World Cup, one against Senegal and that stunning second against Belgium, respectively.

Strikers: Shinji Okazaki & Wu Lei

We round out the team at the top of the pitch, and lining up is yetanotherJapanese player, Shinji Okazaki. A regular of the Leicester team who stunned the world by winning the Premier League all the way back in 2016, Okazaki is more of a creative force than a goalscorer, but over 100 club career goals and another 50 for Japan is still a pretty decent record. He goes into the XI, with Chinese striker Wu Lei going onto the bench. Lei is Shanghai SIPG’s all-time record goalscorer, the Chinese Super League’s second-highest record goalscorer, and has recently established himself as a fan favourite at current club Espanyol. Usually deployed on the left wing but more than capable of playing up front, we finish off the team by finally throwing some more Chinese players into the mix, and his China teammate Gao Lin just misses out behind him.

Manager: Hajime Moriyasu

Since it’s blindingly obvious that Japan has the best footballers of these three nations, who best to coach them than their current manager? Moriyasu took over coaching duties after the 2018 World Cup, and has since led them to the 2019 Asian Cup final, ultimately losing to Qatar, and currently sits on a win percentage of 67%. Maybe if results don’t go his way then Honda can step in? 

And there you have it, folks, conclusive proof that Japan is the best footballing nation in the east. I didn’t mean for this team to be so Japan-heavy, that’s just the way it turned out, and both China and South Korea still have their fair share of football talent. The less said about India and North Korea the better.

I hope you all enjoyed this venture through the fictitious world of Eastasia, and if you’d like to see some Orwellian football teams with actual good players in them, be sure to check out the other three articles in this series.

But for now, stay safe and stay home, Big Brother is always watching. Happy lockdown.

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