- Kashima Antlers reached Club World Cup Final in 2016
- They make their return to the tournament at UAE 2018
- Japanese side open their campaign against Chivas in the second round
They were the host team that stormed to the FIFA Club World Cup Final against the odds in 2016 and took Real Madrid to extra time in Yokohama. Now Kashima Antlers are back at the tournament in UAE, this time as kings of Asia.
Key players such as Japan 2016 super-sub Mu Kanazaki, towering centre-back Naomichi Ueda and adidas bronze ball winner Gaku Shibasaki may have moved on. There are also new faces in the form of Brazilian trio Leandro, Leo Silva and Serginho. But a core of Kashima’s Class of 2016 still remain.
From Shuto Yamamoto on the left of defence to Daigo Nishi on the right – and veteran midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara in the middle of the park still passing on his experience – there remains a distinctive 2016 flavour in the make-up of the side.
|The match - Second round||Kashima Antlers - CD Guadalajara|
|Where:||Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium|
|When:||15 Dec 2018 - 17:00 Local time|
Even the leadership has shades of that year. While Masatada Ishii may no longer be coach, Kashima’s long-term assistant Go Oiwa made the step up to the head managerial role last year.
FIFA.com takes a look at three of Kashima’s stars of two years ago who will be integral to the J1 League side’s hopes of reaching the final once more at UAE 2018, or even going one step further.
Kashima’s No8, Shoma Doi has demonstrated his versatility by successfully playing in the centre and right side of midfield for the Japanese giants. A starter in all of his side’s games at Japan 2016, the live-wire provided three vital assists during the tournament – including one against Real Madrid in the 2016 final.
Doi also showed that he can find the net when needed by bagging Kashima’s first in their semi-final win against Atletico Nacional in Osaka two years ago.
He grabbed the opener against Mamelodi Sundowns and doubled Kashima’s lead against Atletico Nacional, Yasushi Endo made a habit of scoring important goals at Japan 2016. Oiwa will naturally be hoping his man does the same at UAE 2018.
A one-club man who has been with Kashima since 2007, Endo proves a handful for opponents on the right side of midfield.
The now 26-year-old was a rock at the back for Antlers when they overcame Auckland City, Mamelodi Sundowns and Atletico Nacional before finishing as runners-up to Real Madrid in 2016. Shoji goes into UAE 2018 with invaluable experience picked up from playing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.
Shoji started in three of Japan’s World Cup games alongside Japanese titan Maya Yoshida, testing himself against the world’s elite in Russia, and will therefore be making his second appearance at a global finals at UAE 2018.