World Cup 2022: Takehiro Tomiyasu’s Comments Show Another Challenge of an In-Season Tournament

At this point in time, we’ve worked through plenty of issues with the 2022 World Cup and its placement in the soccer calendar. Rather than taking place in the summer, this edition of the tournament has been moved to the winter to accommodate Qatar’s intense heat. That’s caused some logistical concerns, with domestic leagues playing until roughly a week before festivities began, prompting discussions about player fatigue and unnecessary injuries.

On the whole, though, everything has focused on the physical side of things. Takehiro Tomiyasu, who plays for Japan and Arsenal, shone a light on the other side of the coin, though.

Takehiro Tomiyasu highlighted a legitimate World Cup concern after Japan’s elimination

While Japan covered themselves in glory during the group stage, their World Cup success came to an end in the Round of 16. Despite taking the lead against Croatia, the Samurai Blue fell short and ultimately lost in a penalty shootout.

As you might expect, that defeat proved to be crushing to the players on the pitch. Take the words of Takehiro Tomiyasu as an example of that.

“Of course, we are so disappointed with the result,” the Arsenal defender said, according to The Athletic. “My performance was a disaster today so I am sorry for the team. I just need to be much, much better to help the team. It was not enough and also for the team, we did not deserve to win.”

He wasn’t done there, though. When asked about reuniting with his domestic club, Tomiyasu suggested that some time off would do him a world of good.

 “Hopefully, I can get a bit of rest,” he continued. “I need time to forget about football. I need a bit of time.”

Premier League matches resume on December 26, and it’s safe to assume Arsenal will give their defender a bit of a holiday. It remains to be seen, however, if that break is enough to help him turn the page.

It’s easy to ignore mental fatigue, but the 2022 World Cup will test players’ ability to turn the page

Takehiro Tomiyasu walks off the field after Japan's elimination from the 2022 World Cup.
Takehiro Tomiyasu highlighted the mental challenge of returning to domestic action after the World Cup. | Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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When we’re talking about a professional athlete, it’s easy to focus on the physical part of the game. We’ve all seen an injury rule our favorite player out for the rest of the season, and it’s easy to understand the pain of a bad hamstring or broken bone.

Mental health, however, can be trickier to grapple with.

In the context of this World Cup, the concern has focused on fatigue and injuries. If you’re an Arsenal supporter, for example, seeing Ghana go home early was a relief since it meant Thomas Partey could put his feet up and rest. Tomiyasu, however, reminds us that things aren’t that cut and dry.

Leaving Qatar might be a physical rest, but it’s also the start of a mental challenge. Even if a player is completely healthy, not everyone can flip the switch from World Cup disappointment to the challenges of the Premier League in a matter of weeks.

And that’s where the scheduling of the 2022 World Cup comes into play. While it’s not unusual for players who go deep into international tournaments to miss the start of their club campaigns, the schedule allows for that. If your team is only playing one game per week in August, it’s a bit easier to cope with a few absences. The Premier League, however, is resuming at the busiest part of the calendar. Tomiyasu’s Arsenal, to continue using that example, jump back in with three matches in nine days.

Again, that’s nothing new. Considering the mental side of the game, however, does make thing even tougher.

So, when the domestic action resumes, don’t be surprised to see some players sitting out or playing at something less than their best. Mental health is just as legitimate as physical health, and this is what FIFA signed us up for.