World Cup 2022 team preview: Japan could spring a surprise

Japan could be a surprise package in Qatar.


Nicknamed the Samurai Blue, Japan are becoming World Cup regulars having qualified for the last seven tournaments and have quickly become one of the most successful teams in Asia.

They come into this World Cup in impressive form with a record of 10 wins, two draws and two defeats in this calendar year, with their only two defeats coming against tournament favourites and No. 1 ranked side Brazil thanks to a late spot kick by Neymar and a 3-0 defeat to Tunisia in the Kiren Cup final.

They had some notable victories too against Ghana and Paraguay, beating both 4-1. They won the east Asian football championship in the summer scoring nine goals without conceding.

Japan’s best performance at the World Cup has been reaching the last 16 on three separate occasions, and here to look at their chances of improving on that at World Cup 2022 is Paddy football trader James Cumberton.


Japan World Cup 2022 qualifying record

The qualification process in the AFC involved four separate rounds with teams ranked in the top 34 in Asia getting byes to the second round. Japan breezed through their second round group winning all eight games, scoring 46 goals and conceding only two in what was an extremely weak group of five with the next-best ranked team being Tajikistan.

After a rocky start to their third round group Japan won six of their last seven games to finish runners up by one point to Saudi Arabia, leaving Australia in third having to participate in a playoff to qualify for Qatar.

Who is the Japan manager?

Hajime Moriyasu was capped 35 times as a player and has been manager since 2018 having previously been an assistant coach to Akira Nishino. In his four years in charge, Moriyasu boasts a 69% win record. He has coached the team to a runner-up spot in the AFC Asian Cup in 2019 and has won some silverware this year in the East Asian Football Championship. Before his international football career, he coached Sanfrecce Hiroshima to three J1 league titles and two Japanese super cups.

Japan World Cup squad

Japan are likely to play in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but are not limited to this and can alternate depending on tactics. They are captained by veteran defender Maya Yashida, who now plays for Schalke, and he is guaranteed to start barring injury. Moriyasu has a deep pool of players to choose from across Europe’s top divisions with many playing in the Champions League and Europa League.

The most well-known names to UK fans would be Monaco’s Takumi Minamino, Arsenal’s Takehiro Tomiyasu, Celtic’s Daizen Maeda and Brighton winger Kauro Mitoma. They are joined by 21-year-old Takefusa Kubo who was once on the books of Real Madrid and is now playing a starring role for Real Sociedad. Recent Europa League winner Daichi Kamada, who plays in the Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt, is also expected to be a big part of Japan’s campaign.

  • Goalkeepers: Shuichi Gonda, Daniel Schmidt, Eiji Kawashima.
  • Defenders: Miki Yamane, Hiroki Sakai, Maya Yoshida, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Shogo Taniguchi, Ko Itakura, Hiroki Ito, Yuto Nagatomo.
  • Midfielders: Wataru Endo, Hidemasa Morita, Ao Tanaka, Gaku Shibasaki, Kaoru Mitoma, Daichi Kamada, Ritsu Doan, Junya Ito, Takumi Minamino, Takefusa Kubo, Yuki Soma.
  • Forwards: Daizen Maeda, Takuma Asano, Ayase Ueda, Shuto Machino.

Japan Key Player

Japan’s talisman is Takumi Minamino after 10 goals and four assists in the qualifying campaign. After stints at Liverpool and Southampton where he struggled for game time he is now with Monaco and has already chipped in with assists and goals. He is playing lots of minutes so he should be fit and ready for Qatar.

Japan Ones to Watch

Three players to watch are Daichi Kamada, Takefusa Kubo and Junya Ito.

Kamada was an integral part of Frankfurt’s Europa league success and the midfielder is excellent in possession, likes to create and score goals. He has similar attributes to Shinji Kagawa, he operates best behind the striker where he can create chances.

Kubo completed his apprenticeship at Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy but was unable to play for the first team due to the club violating international transfer policy for Under 18s. After a brief stint back in Japan he was signed by Real Madrid. He didn’t play a game in La Liga for the first team but did feature in pre-season tours. The 21-year-old was eventually sold to Sociedad this summer and is a regular starter. The left-sided attacker is nicknamed the ‘Japanese Messi’ due to his technical skill in small spaces, his ability to create space for team-mates and his decision making.

Ito is now playing with Reims. He moved to France after an impressive spell with Genk where he scored 19 goals and had 32 assists for the club in a two-year spell. He can play anywhere in attack and has an impressive crossing and shooting ability. If he gets a regular start in Qatar, it could be worth looking out for his shots/assist prices.

Japan World Cup Prospects

Japan have a tough task in trying to qualify from a group that consists of former World Cup winners and European giants Germany and Spain with Costa Rica making up the quartet for Group E.

Beating Costa Rica in the second game is crucial and it is the only game they are expected to win, however, I think secretly they will fancy themselves to beat one of the bigger nations and qualify for the last 16. Success for Japan would be to first qualify for the last 16 as they have done on three separate occasions.

Japan World Cup betting tips

If Japan can nick a result in the first game against Germany and then go on to beat Costa Rica, they are likely to play an already-qualified Spain side who may rotate players (Spain shouldn’t lose to Germany – their form has been poor and they are under pressure).

There are multiple avenues for Japan to qualify. If they beat Costa Rica in the second game, you will have a lively bet in the final group game regardless of the result v Germany. JAPAN TO QUALIFY FROM GROUP E.

Japan World Cup Winner Odds

Japan World Cup 2022 Fixtures

November 23, 1pm: Germany 1-2 Japan (ITV)

November 27, 10am: Japan 0-1 Costa Rica (ITV)

December 1, 7pm: Japan 2-1 Spain (ITV)

December 5, 3pm: Japan v Croatia (BBC)


*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change

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