Japan FIFA World Cup

Japan captain Makoto Hasebe announces international retirement

Japan captain Makoto Hasebe announced his international retirement on Tuesday night, marking an end to an illustrious 12.5-year career for the Samurai Blue.

The 34-year-old made his senior debut in 2006, but established himself as a starter at central midfield in 2008 during the qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The tournament in South Africa would turn out to be the first of three World Cups in which the Shizuoka native wore the captain’s armband, as he became one of the stars of Japan’s 2011 AFC Asian Cup-winning squad alongside fellow central midfielder Yasuhito Endo.

Hasebe concludes his international career with 114 appearances, which include three starts in Russia at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

“It has been an honor to wear the Hinomaru on my chest, a fantastic experience that nothing can replace,” Hasebe wrote on his Instagram account.

“The seven managers I have played under, our coaching staff, national team staff, and my wonderful teammates have been my greatest friends. I was able to serve as captain for eight years because of everyone’s support, (and) it has been a pleasure to play at the same time as all of you.”

Hasebe is the third Japan international to declare his intention to step back from the national team, following statements by Keisuke Honda and Gotoku Sakai after the team’s dramatic 3-2 loss to Belgium in the Round of 16 on Monday night in Rostov-on-Don.

“I have no intention of trying to make the 2022 World Cup squad,” 27-year-old Sakai told Nikkan Sports. “That should be for players who [represent our] hope and future.”