Friday 19 January 2018

World Cup team preview: Japan

The Japanese national team
The Japanese national team

There are 13 days to go until the beginning of the festival of football in Brazil begins. Today we are previewing the chances of Japan.

In their four appearances at the World Cup, the Japanese have excelled twice and have collapsed on their other two visits to the biggest footballing event on the planet.

Their most recent participation in South Africa saw the Japanese advance from their group at the expense of Denmark and Cameroon and were only knocked out by the Paraguayans in their last 16 game after penalties.

Their ambition and endeavour is admirable but their lack of physicality and vulnerability at set pieces makes them weak. Should be a very interesting team to follow.

More than capable of emerging from a weak group.

Group C: Cote d'Ivoire, Greece and Colombia

Tournament odds: 150/1

How they got here

Japan began their gruelling two-year qualifying campaign under new coach Alberto Zaccheroni poorly by losing to Uzbekistan and Korea DPR before seeing their progression into the fourth round secured.

By fourth round the team began fitting into Zaccheroni's style with two emphatic opening victories over Oman (3-0) and Jordan (6-0) saw the Samurai Blue as the group’s runaway leaders and although they were held by Australia to a 1-1 draw, Oman and Iraq’s losses put Zaccheroni’s side on the cusp of qualification.

An unexpected 2-1 loss in Jordan may have briefly delayed their celebration party, but they battled back to draw Australia 1-1, providing Japan with the requisite point to seal their fifth successive FIFA World Cup appearance.

Key player

Hidetoshi Nakata and Shunsuke Nakamura are gone now with the likes of Shinji Kagawa and CSKA Moscow midfielder Keisuke Honda taking their place.

Kagawa will be out to prove a point after a disappointing club season with Manchester United and has the vision and class to cause opposition serious problems.

Shinji Kagawa looks set to play for Manchester United tonight

Something you didn't know about Japan

The World's Oldest Company operated in Japan from 578 AD to 2006.

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