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Daichi Kamada has taken the Bundesliga by storm this season and will look to keep his good play going for Japan at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. (Photo by Ralf Treese/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

2022 FIFA World Cup Team Previews: Japan

Japan
Daichi Kamada has taken the Bundesliga by storm this season and will look to keep his good play going for Japan at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. (Photo by Ralf Treese/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

2022 FIFA World Cup Team Previews: Japan

The 2022 FIFA World Cup is less than a month away from kicking off in Qatar. Over the next 32 days, I will be previewing each team that will be taking part in the world’s most-watched event. Check out all of the team previews that have been done so far. Up next is Japan.

Japan should be heading into the 2022 World Cup with a ton of confidence after playing three other World Cup teams in their last three matches without losing.

In Group E, it will be easy to overlook “Samurai Blue” but they are a much more difficult team than most expect. Japan has an experienced squad with lots of talent that could absolutely cause an upset of Germany or Spain.

Having finished second in their AFC qualifying group, Japan gained automatic qualification for the 2022 World Cup. In qualifying, they lost two of their first three matches but did not lose the rest of the way. The 24th-ranked team in the FIFA men’s rankings has lost just two matches in 2022 while winning eight.

World Cup Appearances

Japan did not qualify for a single World Cup until 1998. Since then “Samurai Blue” have yet to miss a World Cup and will be heading to their seventh straight World Cup. For five of their previous six appearances, Japan had to go through the qualification process. The 2002 World Cup is the only exception as Japan co-hosted the tournament with South Korea becoming the first Asian country to do so.

Best Finish at a World Cup

Three times Japan has made it out of the group stage at a World Cup. All three times “Samurai Blue” went out in the Round of 16. The first time they made it to the Round of 16 was in 2002 when they lost to Turkey 1-0. Then in 2010, they lost on penalties to Paraguay. Most recently they played Belgium in 2018 and lost a thriller 3-2 after being up 2-0 in the second half. 

Key players

Leading Japan into the 2022 World Cup will be captain Maya Yoshida. The Schalke 04 defender has the second most caps on the current Japan squad with 121 behind Yuto Nagatomo’s 137 caps. Besides Yoshida, “Samurai Blue” has a few other players that play in Europe’s big leagues. 

Defender Takehiro Tomiyasu plays for Arsenal, midfielder Takumi Minamino plays for Monaco, and the rising star Daichi Kamada plays for Frankfurt. Minamino leads the current squad in goals with 17. The player that could change games for Japan is Kamada. He is tied for the third most goals in the Bundesliga this season with seven which is more than Sadio Mane and Timo Werner have scored. 

Manager

At the 2018 World Cup Hajime Moriyasu was an assistant coach, but after Akira Nishino stepped down Moriyasu was promoted to manager. Since taking over Moriyasu has guided Japan to the Asian Cup Final in 2019 and to the East Asian Football Championship final that they won. Under the reign of Moriyasu, “Samurai Blue” has gone 39-8-10 and qualified for the 2022 World Cup.

Biggest Group Game – vs. Germany on Nov. 23

To get out of the group stage Japan will need to beat Costa Rica and get an upset result against either Germany or Spain.

The opening match at the 2022 World Cup for “Samurai Blue” comes against Germany. The advantage that Japan has in this match is that Germany’s defense is not nearly as good as it has been in past World Cups. For a team like Japan that is quick in taking advantage of defensive mistakes, this could be a very tough match for Germany to start with.

If Japan does get a win or even a draw, they will be lined up nicely for a second straight Round of 16 appearance. 

Prediction

Just like clockwork Japan has alternated going out in the group stage and going out in the Round of 16 in their six World Cup appearances. Four years ago they made it to the Round of 16 which would mean it’s a group stage exit in 2022. I can see Japan getting out of Group E, but I just do not think it is going to happen. Somehow, someway both Spain and Germany will finish in the top two and send “Samurai Blue” home from the 2022 FIFA World Cup after the group stage.

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