After rising to the top in Portugal, Hidemasa Morita will want to gain recognition on the world stage at World Cup 2022, but his Japan side will come up against tough opposition against Spain and Germany in Group E.

Morita’s time in Portugal has been impressive, the combative midfielder garnering widespread praise in his debut season for Santa Clara before earning a move to Portuguese giants Sporting this past summer. 

After signing for Santa Clara in the January transfer window of 2021, he made an instant impact on his debut by netting an 88th minute winner against Rio Ave and setting the tone for what would be a breakout season in European football. He would go on to play every minute of every league game from that moment on, and despite only playing in the league for half a season he was included by many pundits in their ‘Team of the Season’.

A notably underwhelming second season in the Azores followed, leading to some doubts over the player’s mental fortitude after not securing an expected move to a bigger club in the summer, but it wasn’t enough to put off Sporting who signed the Japanese midfielder for €3.8M in the summer of 2022.

Difficult acts to follow

At first it seemed like Morita may have walked into a difficult situation with Sporting selling two talismanic midfielders in João Palhinha and Matheus Nunes. With a lot to live up to in terms of his predecessors, and despite a sticky start to life at his new club, he soon won round the fans with impressive performances both in the league and in Europe.

Morita has scored more league goals for Sporting this season (3) than he managed in 1.5 seasons at Santa Clara (2). 

The stage was set for Morita to head to Qatar in great form and full of confidence, only for a last-minute calf injury to raise question marks about his fitness, but he was deemed fit enough to be called up to the squad and could be in line for a start in Japan’s first group game against Germany on Wednesday.

Fans of the Samurai Blue will have been disappointed to see them drawn in a group with two recent world cup winners in Spain and Germany, making their chances of progressing to the round of 16 somewhat unlikely, but Morita and his compatriots will be aiming to cause an upset in the first World Cup in their continent since 2002. 

In the thick of the action

Morita’s all-action style should see him at the centre of the action in those two games, his role in midfield being to break up attacks and set his team on the counter on the likely few occasions they have possession of the ball.

Spain and Germany will provide a level of opposition that Morita is not accustomed to, but his energy levels and composure on the ball in the middle of the park could prove to be invaluable attributes in two games where Japan will have little time on the ball, and opportunities to make an impact going forward will be few and far between.

It may turn out to be a fleeting visit to the Persian Gulf for Morita’s Japan, but the opportunity for a young, relatively unknown midfielder, plying his trade in Portugal to make in impact on the biggest stage will give Morita all the motivation he needs to try and cause an upset.

By Barney Carter-Phillips

Comments (6)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

so far Iran and Argentina lost, and Japan is losing. If Canada loses tonight too, it'll make 4 out of 4 times when a "Primeira Liga stars at World Cup 2022" article has been published and the national team, the players in the article are playing...

so far Iran and Argentina lost, and Japan is losing. If Canada loses tonight too, it'll make 4 out of 4 times when a "Primeira Liga stars at World Cup 2022" article has been published and the national team, the players in the article are playing for, has lost.

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Samuel
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Japan won

Samuel
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Germany still look far from the finished article. Still embarrassed how easily they trashed us last year at the Euros.

Santos
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Yeah, that was a Santos special. One of the things I do think he is horrible at is reading the game. Clearly, once we were up luckily, against the run of play and Carvalho was playing very badly, he should have pulled him. But no, he waited...

Yeah, that was a Santos special. One of the things I do think he is horrible at is reading the game. Clearly, once we were up luckily, against the run of play and Carvalho was playing very badly, he should have pulled him. But no, he waited until it the damage was done to bring in Sanches.

But don't worry, he won't make that mistake again, Sanches isn't available to bail him out this time.

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Paulo
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And England got trashed by the same Hungarian team we beat 3:0. Every game is different.

Samuel
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It's never a scandal to lose to Germany but the manner of that defeat was absolutely a joke, especially considering that the German team was poor by their usual standards. It wasn't just a bad game, Santos got it completely wrong from the off and...

It's never a scandal to lose to Germany but the manner of that defeat was absolutely a joke, especially considering that the German team was poor by their usual standards. It wasn't just a bad game, Santos got it completely wrong from the off and was unable to react until the game was well out of sight.

@Paulo Indeed. You only have to look back to the Spain game in the NL as the most recent example.

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Santos
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