Squad Analysis of Japan National Team for FIFA World Cup 2018
Japan have announced their preliminary 30-man squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. There are almost no real surprises there. The 30-man list announced could have been predicted by most people. Although there is a good part of the football fans in ‘The land of the rising Sun’ who are not happy with the provisional squad, but then it’s part of any selection procedure. Although the final squad is yet to be announced by Japan Football Association, we take a deep look into what the Japanese can offer in the upcoming World Cup in Russia.
Newly appointed manager Akira Nishino has announced probably the best squad that he could. Nishino replaced the old coach Vahid Halilhodzic last month and he has called up Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa, both of whom had been surprisingly omitted by Halilhodzic in his last squads. Friday’s announcement was the first indication about which players Nishino has in mind for the World Cup.
Honda has scored seven goals in the Liga MX, playing for Pachuca. He was a mainstay in Japan’s recent World Cup squads. He unfortunately fell out of favour with Halilhodzic, who benched him during qualifying matches. Borussia Dortmund player Shinji Kagawa, Bremen striker Yuya Osako, Leicester forward Shinji Okazaki, and 13 others make up the contingent from Europe.
Clearly, the majority of players are based in Europe, as has been the trend in most previous Japanese squads.
○Overall preliminary squad:
Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima (Metz); Masaaki Higashiguchi (Gamba Osaka); Kosuke Nakamura (Kashiwa Reysol).
Defenders: Yuto Nagatomo (Galatasaray); Tomoaki Makino, Wataru Endo (Urawa Reds); Maya Yoshida (Southampton); Hiroki Sakai (Marseille); Gotoku Sakai (Hamburg); Gen Shoji, Naomichi Ueda (Kashima Antlers).
Midfielders: Makoto Hasebe (Eintracht Frankfurt); Toshihiro Aoyama (Sanfrecce Hiroshima); Keisuke Honda (Pachuca); Takashi Inui (Eibar); Shinji Kagawa (Dortmund); Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka); Genki Haraguchi, Takashi Usami (Fortuna Dusseldorf); Gaku Shibasaki (Getafe); Ryota Oshima (Kawasaki Frontale); Kento Misao (Kashima Antlers); Yosuke Ideguchi (Leonesa).
Forwards: Shinji Okazaki (Leicester); Yuya Osako (Werder Bremen); Yoshinori Muto (Mainz); Takuma Asano (Stuttgart).
● Team Rating:
It is a mixed bag, with many players capable of creating magic on the pitch, and many others who aren’t really household names.
This is going to be Japan’s sixth straight World Cup. It has not been very successful though, with the side from Asia reaching the knockout rounds only twice, losing both times in the last 16, once in 2002 under French coach Philippe Troussier when the World Cup was hosted jointly by them and South Korea, and again in 2010 under Japanese coach Takeshi Okada.
● Recent Form:
Their recent form has been discouraging, and it is clear why the last coach was sacked.
They have not won 3 out of their last 5 matches, drawing to Mali 1-1 also losing 1-4 to South Korea and 1-2 to Ukraine at home.
They won 1-0 and 2-1 against North Korea and China PR before the downturn, but they are not exactly the teams who will provide strong competition.
The new manager will need to do miracles in the warm-up matches if they want to stand any chance of winning this trophy.
● Hurdles in Group:
Japan will play in Group H at the World Cup with Colombia, Poland and Senegal.
Colombia and Poland can walk over Japan if their terrible form continues, but if they can turn it around in their warm up matches, they can have a real go at qualification from the group.
Nishino on Kagawa and Honda: “You all probably know their play well, and they’re vital to the national team,” Nishino told reporters. “I hope they will maintain their performance and contribute.”
● Writer’s Take:
It is highly unlikely, but not impossible, for Japan to qualify for the knockout stages. The team is decent, but it seems extremely tough for them to qualify from a group having the likes of Colombia and Poland. Senegal, with Sadio Mané, also should not be taken lightly. But we have seen miracles happen in the World Cup, and this year should be no exception.