DOHA, QATAR - Wednesday, November 23, 2022: Japan players line-up for a team group photograph before the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group E match between Germany and Japan at the Khalifa International Stadium. Back row L-R: goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda, Hiroki Sakai, Ko Itakura, Ao Tanaka, Water Endo, Maya Yoshida. Front row L-R: Junya Ito, Takefusa Kubo, Daizen Maeda, Yuto Nagatomo, Daichi Kamada. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Wataru Endo captains Japan to perfect record as Takumi Minamino scores

Wataru Endo helped Japan finish off the second round of World Cup qualifiers with six wins from six, as Takumi Minamino scored in a 5-0 thrashing of Syria.

It has been a perfect start to the 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign for Japan, who on Tuesday ended the second round with a 100 percent record.

After victories over Myanmar (twice 5-0), Syria (5-0), North Korea (1-0 and 3-0 after forfeit), they hosted Syria in Hiroshima hoping to make it six wins from six.

They did just that, with a comprehensive win over an admittedly lowly side that saw Liverpool midfielder Endo start as captain and play 62 minutes.

Goals from Ayase Ueda, Ritsu Doan and a Thaer Krouma own goal put Japan 3-0 up before the half-hour, with Endo breaking up play and propelling his side forward for the opener.

DOHA, QATAR - Wednesday, November 23, 2022: Japan's Japan's Takumi Minamino during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group E match between Germany and Japan at the Khalifa International Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Yuki Soma made it 4-0 after the break from the penalty spot, before a goal from former Liverpool forward Minamino rounded off the win.

It meant Japan finish the second round of Asia’s World Cup qualifying bracket top of Group B with 18 points – and a nine-point lead over second-placed North Korea.

They will now be drawn into one of three groups, with 10 more qualifiers to play before the top two from each group progresses to the tournament proper.

Their second-round finish means they have also qualified for the 2027 Asian Cup which, if he is still at the club, would rule Endo out of action for Liverpool midway through the 2026/27 campaign.

DOHA, QATAR - Sunday, November 27, 2022: Japan's Wataru Endo during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group E match between Japan and Costa Rica at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium. Costa Rica won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Endo, who was an unused substitute last time out against Myanmar, made his 62nd appearance for Japan and his 15th since being named captain.

He will now depart for a post-season break before joining up with his Liverpool team-mates for day one of pre-season.

Mohamed Salah is also among those expected in Arne Slot‘s first squad at the AXA Training Centre, along with Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, Jarell Quansah, Stefan Bajcetic and Fabio Carvalho.