Japan: Endo Yasuhito

Written by Jun Yoon in 2013

Edited and updated by Justin Fu in 2015


Central Midfield, #7, 33 Years Old



Endo Yasuhito, born January 28, 1980 in Kagoshima City in the Kagoshima Prefecture, is a Japanese central midfielder known for his passing ability, vision, and his deadly set pieces. His penalty kicks, known as the “korokoro kick,” bounces several times after hitting the ground for the first time and is a nightmare to catch for most goalies. Endo is also famous for his free kicks and is Japan’s designated dead ball kicker for free kicks within 30 meters.



Endo debuted in 1998 for the Yokohama Flugels, appearing in 16 matches and scoring one goal. In the same year, he was picked for the Japanese U20 team. In the following year Endo participated in the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship[1] and helped Japan finish 2nd behind Spain. He then was transferred from Yokohama to Kyoto Purple Sanga where he played until 2000. Then in 2001 when Kyoto was demoted to the J2 league, he transferred out of Kyoto to Gamba Osaka, where he still plays today. He is the most capped Japanese player (144 caps), one of the four Japanese players (Ihara, Kawaguchi, Endo, Nakazawa)[2] to be in the century club (over 100 A-match caps) and the franchise star of the Gamba Osaka. When advised to take his talent overseas by Alberto Zaccheroni in 2011, he chose to remain with Osaka. In 2012 when Osaka was relegated to the J2 league, Endo’s decision to stay with Osaka or leave became the headline of the Japanese sports industry. Endo decided to stay with Osaka and helped Osaka win the 2013 J2 League title. Osaka was promoted to the J1 league in 2014. Endo, from 2003~2012 has been named to the J-league Best Eleven and has won the 2008 Asian Champions League MVP and the 2009 AFC Player of the Year Award. He is known as the Xavi Hernandez of Japan.



He has played in both the 2006 Germany and 2010 South Africa World Cups as Japan’s key player. In the 2006 World Cup, after Japan failed to make it past the group stages, their manager Ivica Osim was replaced by Alberto Zaccheroni. When Zaccheroni was brought on as the manager, he implemented the “tiki-taka” football, utilized by Josep Guardiola in FC Barcelona. As a result, the Japanese relied heavily on their midfielders to start out the attacks. This was a perfect fit for Japan as they had skillful midfielders in Hasebe, Endo, and Honda; among the three, Endo has emerged as the leader of the pack. Endo’s biggest talent is his ability move off the ball. When Japan starts its attack, the opposition forward usually looks to take away the passing lane from the fullback to the defensive midfielder[3]. Endo recognizes the movement by the opposition striker and moves to a place where he can receive the ball from his defensive line. He then either dribbles up the pitch or looks for other players to pass to. This process is crucial as it starts off the attack. In today’s pass oriented system, players such as Endo, Pirlo, Xavi, and Busquets excel in this role.


Endo, receiving the 2009 AFC Player of the Year Award


Given his age, the 2014 World Cup will probably be Endo’s last World Cup. Along with the world class footballers of Honda, Kagawa, Nagatomo and Hasebe at his side, 2014 will be Endo’s chance to carve his name out in the history of Japanese football. He is the only player to play for a single club for over 10 years in Japan and is also the most decorated player in the squad with various awards. If Endo leads Japan out of the group stages, past the round of 16, and into the quarter-finals or perhaps the semi-finals, he will be remembered as the hero of Japan. But at the same time, Japan must also find Endo’s replacement. His health has already deteriorated over the past few years to a point where he is not fully effective when playing the whole 90 minutes[4]. Japan has already found Yamaguchi but it will definitely take time for Yamaguchi to fill out Endo’s role completely. However, looking at Japan’s recent victories against the Netherlands and Belgium, Japan is without a doubt the strongest competitor out of the AFC. If they keep everyone healthy and ready, they will look to surprise the world in Brazil.


Japan secures its 2014 World Cup berth as a member of the Asian Football Confederation in July 2013.

Endo Yasuhito Post-World Cup 2014

Unfortunately, Endo and the Japanese national team had a fairly disappointing World Cup. In their opening match of the group stages, they fell to Ivory Coast 2-1 and followed up that effort with a 0-0 draw with Greece and a 4-1 loss to Columbia [5]. Endo was used as a substitute in the matches against Ivory Coast and Greece, being subbed on at the halfway point. In the match against Columbia, Endo did not even play a single minute. Clearly, Japan has begun looking towards the future of its squad and resting the veteran legs of Yasuhito Endo.

After the World Cup, Endo helped lead his club, Gamba Osaka, to their second J. League Championship in 2014. In doing so, he was also selected as J. League Player of the Year. Entering the World Cup Break, Gamba were 16th and in danger of relegation back to the second division. However, after the break, the team won 15 out of 20 matches and lost just twice to capture the first position with a 1-point lead over the Urawa Reds [6].

Endo Yasuhito, age 34, is selected as the 2014 J. League Player of the Year after leading the Gamba’s to 1st place.

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Continue on to Group D – Costa Rica: Bryan Ruiz

Group C – Colombia: Radamel Falcao

Group C – Greece: Giorgos Karagounis

Group C – Ivory Coast: Didier Drogba

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Learn about Japan’s National Anthem


How to cite this article: “Japan: Endo Yasuhito” Written by Jun Yoon (2013), World Cup 2014, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp (accessed on (date)).


Works Cited:

Click here to return to the Asian Football Confederation page.
[1]  FIFA World Youth Championship Nigeria 1999, http://www.fifa.com/tournaments/archive/u20worldcup/nigeria1999/index.html

[2] Most Capped Japanese Football Player, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan_national_football_team

[3] 엔도 야스히토, 스시타카의 사비라 불려도 모자람이 없다, http://blog.naver.com/megaonic?Redirect=Log&logNo=40201374134

[4] ‘상승세’ 일본 스시타카의 비밀은 ‘엔도타임’ http://xportsnews.hankyung.com/?ac=article_view&entry_id=392155

[5] “FIFA” 2014 FIFA World Cup Groups. (Accessed Feb. 27 2015). http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/archive/brazil2014/groups/index.html

[6] “”Japan Times” Gamba’s Endo selected as J. League Player of the Year. Written Dec. 9 2014. (Accessed Feb. 27 2015). http://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2014/12/09/soccer/j-league/gambas-endo-selected-j-league-player-year/#.VPDEpfnF98E


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