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AFC Asian Cup

Roberto De Zerbi reacts to Kaoru Mitoma's surprise inclusion in Japan's AFC Asian Cup squad

Published at :January 3, 2024 at 12:55 AM
Modified at :January 13, 2024 at 11:55 PM
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Aditya Chauhan

Kaoru Mitoma missed the clash against Spurs

Brighton & Hove Albion forward Kaoru Mitoma was called up for Japan’s squad for the AFC Asian Cup 2024.

Manager Roberto De Zerbi is a bit surprised by the decision of the national team. Brighton had reported that Mitoma would be out for four to six weeks. In a recent interview, De Zerbi said,

“I’m really surprised because my medical staff told me Mitoma needs four, six weeks for his injury,” said De Zerbi, speaking before Tuesday’s game against West Ham.

“For me, it’s difficult to think he can play in the Asian Cup.

“But I am a fan of Mitoma, of all my players, so if they can play for their national team I am very happy and very proud.”

Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu said he was unsure whether Mitoma would be fit to start Japan’s first game against Vietnam on 14 January.

“I don’t know if [Mitoma] will be ready for the first match, but he is recovering well and I expect him to be available at an early stage,” said Moriyasu.

Japan are aiming to win the Asian Cup for a record fifth time, having previously lifted the title in 1992, 2000, 2004 and 2011. They will start their campaign on January 14 against Vietnam, before taking on Iraq and Indonesia in Group D.

The Seagulls were preparing for life without Mitoma in January regardless of his departure for the Asia Cup, as they look ahead to games against West Ham, Stoke City and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The Seagulls have been plagued by several injuries this season, with Solly March, Joel Veltman, Tariq Lamptey, Ansu Fati and Igor Julio all currently ruled out.

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