Wataru Endo ends goalless run for Japan in disappointing Asian Cup defeat

Wataru Endo ended his long wait for an international goal on Friday afternoon, but couldn't prevent Japan from falling to a disappointing defeat in the Asian Cup.

The highest FIFA ranked Asian side had got their campaign off to a flying start with a 4-2 win over Vietnam in their Group D opener, Wataru Endo proving crucial in that clash.

The Japan captain provided an assist in the victory, setting up former Liverpool attacking midfielder Takumi Minamino.

Now at Monaco, Minamino grabbed a double during his side's 4-2 victory, a result that put Japan in a promising position to qualify.

However, their second match of the group stage saw them suffer a disappointing setback, the Samurai Blue falling to a 2-1 defeat to Iraq.

Ayman Hussein scored twice before the break, goals that ultimately gave the 63rd-ranked side an underdog victory in Qatar.

However, Endo did manage a consolation goal in second-half stoppage-time. It may not have impacted the result, but it was the Liverpool man's first Japan strike for almost three years.

Endo last scored for his country in March 2021, a header in a 3-0 international friendly victory against South Korea. His goal against Iraq now takes his tally to three for Japan.

The result leaves Japan in slight danger of an early exit from the Asian Cup, something Jurgen Klopp had joked would be beneficial to Liverpool.

However, given they won their opening match and face Indonesia in their final group game, it still seems unlikely that they won't progress to the knockout phase.

In the Asian Cup, the four best third-placed sides also qualify from the group stages.

Speaking about leaving Liverpool to join up with his national team, Endo recently said: "“Of course I want to stay here but as a national team player it is important for me as I am captain. I am now focused on the national team and just doing my best.

"I want to have good results at the Asian Cup, but that’ll mean I have to stay longer in Qatar. I want to come back with the Asian Cup title."

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