Wataru Endo was in good form as helped Japan to 4-2 over Vietnam in their opening Asia Cup clash in Group D.
Although he and his teammates started the game slowly, the 30-year-old soon grew into the game to secure all three points.
The Liverpool man created the most chances for Japan (3) and made the most recoveries (12), all while topping that off with an assist.
He set up former Liverpool man Takumi Minamino for the second goal against their South East Asia counterparts.
The Samurais are undoubtedly one of the favourites for the entire competition.
If Endo can continue to lead this top Japan side, then he will no doubt at least make the final on 10 February.
Endo could miss up to eight games for Liverpool if he were to make the run to the final – including Premier League games against Arsenal and Chelsea.
Manager Jurgen Klopp had previously joked about the possibly of Endo missing all those games, saying:
“I said, if I wish you good luck, it would be a lie!”
“That’s not what I did, obviously. From a personal point of view, I would be happy if they went out of the group stage but it’s probably not possible, and then they can go and win it as well.”
“Good luck, see you, come back healthy, that’s pretty much the words. Now we have to deal with it and will deal with it.”
It was a light-hearted joke by the German manager, but also goes to show how Endo is viewed at Anfield.
After a slowish start to his Liverpool career, the Japan skipper is now seen as an important player.
In light of Jurgen Klopp’s joke, Wataru Endo has now responded.
What did Wataru Endo say?
The 30-year-old spoke ahead of the opener against Vietnam, remarking at how ‘honored’ he feels to be seen as important by Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool:
“Of course, the coach meant that as a joke but I do feel very honoured that he feels I need to be back at Liverpool.”
“I’m here now, I’m the captain of the team and all I’m thinking about is bringing the trophy back to Liverpool.”
It will do Endo a world of confidence to hear that from his manager and seems to have already impacted him positively.
Endo and Japan will take on Iraq this Friday before facing Indonesia for the last matchday of the group stages on the 24 of January.