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Team-by-team guide: 2022 Japan World Cup preview

To prepare you for the tournament, The18 has launched team-by-team previews for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Here's the Japan World Cup preview 2022. The Samurai Blues will play in Group E against Spain, Germany and Costa Rica.

Japan World Cup Preview 2022

World Cup appearances: 7th

Best Finish: Round of 16 (2002, 2010, 2018)  

How They Got Here: After a minor scare against Oman and two hard-fought battles against Australia, Japan finished second behind Saudi Arabia in Group B of the AFC qualifiers. 

Coach: Hajime Moriyasu (Japanese)

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World Cup squad: Coach Moriyasu has already named the 26 player-list for the World Cup.

  • Goalkeepers: Shuichi Gonda (Shimizu S-Pulse), Daniel Schmidt (Sint Truiden), Eiji Kawashima (Strasbourg)
  • Defenders: Hiroki Sakai (Urawa Red Diamonds), Miki Yamane (Kawasaki Frontale), Ko Itakura (Borussia Monchengladbach), Takehiro Tomiyasu (Arsenal), Maya Yoshida (Schalke 04), Shogo Taniguchi (Kawasaki Frontale), Hiroki Ito (VfB Stuttgart), Yuto Nagatomo (FC Tokyo), Yuta Nakayama (Huddersfield Town)
  • Midfielders: Junya Ito (Stade de Reims), Ritsu Doan (SC Freiburg), Wataru Endo (VfB Stuttgart), Hidemasa Morita (Sporting), Ao Tanaka (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Daichi Kamada (Eintracht Frankfurt), Takefusa Kubo (Real Sociedad), Takumi Minamino (AS Monaco), Kaoru Mitoma (Brighton & Hove Albion), Gaku Shibasaki (Leganes), Yuki Soma (Nagoya Grampus)
  • Forwards: Daizen Maeda (Celtic), Ayase Ueda (Cercle Brugge), Takuma Asano (Vfl Bochum)

Strongest XI: (4-2-3-1) Shuichi Gonda; Hiroki Sakai, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Maya Yoshida, Yuto Nagatomo; Wataru Endo, Hidemasa Morita; Kaoru Mitoma, Daichi Kamada, Junya Ito; Takuma Asano

Injuries: Ko Itakura (knee, questionable), Takefusa Kubo (shoulder, questionable), Takuma Asano (knee, questionable)

What's To Like: This Japanese squad has depth, maybe more than ever. Several players are having an outstanding season in Europe, including Itakura, Tomiyasu, Ito, Endo, Morita, Mitoma and Kamada. They also have Minamino and Kubo, two that maybe could be doing better, but sure they have clout enough to be in any conversation about the Samurai Blues.

It is so good that coach Moriyasu dared to leave players like Celtic FC Kyogo Furuhashi and Union Berlin Genki Haraguchi out of the plane going to Qatar. 

Their style of play is also very entertaining, trying to attack with quick possessions or overloading a wing before unloading the ball and trying to surprise in the far post. 

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What's Not To Like: The group they have to face off. Spain and Germany are better than Japan in the possession game, while Costa Rica is one of the most defensive-exasperating teams in the tournament. 

Another element to worry about is the number of players going to Qatar who are not in their best shape. Itakura and Asano are racing to recover from knee injuries, while Kubo is struggling with some shoulder issues.

X-Factor: Daichi Kamada

The attacking midfielder is having a sensational season in Eintracht Frankfurt. In the Bundesliga, Kamada is not only helping with assists (3) but also bagging goals. In fact, he is the club's top scorer (7). 

Kamada also has three goals in the Champions League, where Eintracht Frankfurt just advanced to the Round of 16.

Best Hair: Daizen Maeda. (Moustache and beard spot on)

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Most Likely To Fuck It All Up: Japan has a tendency to lose balls when they are building a play, so it would not be weird to see them paying a high price for a misplaced pass backward. Do not discard either a Maya Yoshida blooper. 

What Will Make This A Good World Cup: Round of 16. Japan's coach said their objective was to reach the quarter-finals for the first time ever, but it would be really hard to see them escaping the group stage.

Bonus Prediction: Japanese fans and players will teach the world – again – how to clean your shit after creating a mess. Supporters are going to tidy up their seating, while players are going to leave their dressing room spotless with thank-you notes for the hospitality they have received in Qatar attached to their garbage bags. 

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