Although his appearances for the senior Samurai Blue team have been limited so far, the future is bright for towering centre-back Naomichi Ueda. Ueda’s career trajectory shows all the signs of a player who will be able to cut it at the highest level. He featured for Japan at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011 and scored one goal during their run to the quarter-finals.
Consistent playing time for Kashima Antlers, where he’s been for five years, has been key for the young defender's development. His experience playing in international tournaments like the FIFA Club World Cup in 2016, where he helped Kashima reach the final only to be defeated by Real Madrid after extra time, will only help him at Russia 2018. New Japan coach Akira Nishino will also know that Ueda’s knack for scoring on attacking set pieces could prove crucial in a knockout tournament environment.