With victory over Indonesia on Wednesday, Japan booked their place in the last 16 of the Asian Cup, meaning Wataru Endo will be in Qatar for at least another week.
As tournament favourites, it was planned for and expected that Japan would get out of their group. However, eyebrows were raised when they lost 2-1 to Iraq in their second group game.
A 3-1 win over Indonesia has since meant they have qualified for the next round, though, with their next match potentially against South Korea, on January 31.
Iraq’s dramatic late 3-2 win over Vietnam meant Japan could only finish the group in second place, with six points from their three games.
They will now face the winner of Group E, which could be any of Jordan, South Korea or Bahrain. The Samurai Blue will know their opponents on Thursday, when South Korea face Malaysia and Jordan play Bahrain.
In terms of Endo’s individual performances as captain of his country, he will be hoping to improve in the knockout phases.
He himself hasn’t played too poorly, but the team is yet to really get going. Their defeat against Iraq came as a surprise, but Endo did manage a consolation goal in injury time.
Manager Hajime Moriyasu’s side then improved against Indonesia, as Feyenoord’s Ayase Ueda netted a brace in their 3-1 win over Indonesia.
As the skipper, Endo has played the full game in each of their fixtures, the first of which was a 4-2 win over Vietnam in which ex-Liverpool forward Takumi Minamino scored twice.
After the loss vs. Iraq, though, Minamino was subsequently left out of the final group match against Indonesia.
So far, Endo has missed the following Liverpool matches due to the Asian Cup:
Arsenal 0-2 Liverpool (FA Cup)
Liverpool 2-1 Fulham (League Cup)
Bournemouth 0-4 Liverpool
Fulham vs. Liverpool (League Cup)