July 4, 2018
Kazan, Russia- Japanese soccer player Makoto Hasebe, who led Japan in the FIFA World Cup in Russia as team captain, has announced his retirement from the Japanese national squad.
The 34-year-old midfielder, who currently plays for Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany's Bundesliga, announced his exit from the national team on Tuesday, a day after Japan suffered a heartbreaking loss to Belgium in their round-of-16 match in the World Cup.
Hasebe said he had made up his mind to retire before the start of the quadrennial tournament.
"I really have nothing but gratitude," Hasebe told reporters. "I had a marvelous time as I was supported by many friends and supporters."
Hasebe made his debut as a player for Samurai Blue, a nickname for the Japanese national team, in February 2006.
Serving as captain in three World Cup events, in South Africa in 2010, in Brazil in 2014 and this year's tournament, he was a reliable leader who held the team together in tough times.
Looking back at the eight years he has captained the side, Hasebe said that he has grown not only as a player through the experience but also as a person.
"I have gained a lot" through the years, he added.
The Belgium game represented the 11th World Cup match for Hasebe, defender/midfielder Yuto Nagatomo and goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, a national record.
Hasebe has played in 114 games as a member of the Japanese team, fifth on the all-time list, and scored two goals.
Maya Yoshida, a defender who played alongside Hasebe in the national team, choked up on the news of his teammate's retirement.
His voice cracked as he said that Hasebe was "a really amazing captain." Jiji Press
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