Two Former World Champions – Spain and Germany – are the obvious favorites to advance and their November 27 meeting is the first round marquee game. Stingy Japan has a solid roster and the other two teams are more likely to disrupt the natural order if one of the giants slips. As for aging Costa Ricasurviving the first round will be an extremely difficult task.
Everything you need to know about Japan:
Coaches: Hajime Moriyasu
Highest degree: Round of 16 (2002, 2010, 2018)
End of 2018: round of 16
FOX betting odds: +25000
Key Characters: Daichi Kamada, Takumi Minamino, Takehiro Tomiyasu
What we look forward to: Japan enjoys the underdog role and tends to exceed expectations. In 2018 they survived with a group Colombia, Poland and Senegal and then gave Belgiumanything they could handle in the second round. Don’t be shocked if they anger one of their decorated European enemies.
Achievements look like this: It would be an unprecedented feat for the Blue Samurai to make it out of the first round at back-to-back World Championships. Winning a knockout round match for the first time would be even better.
Achilles heel: Points. The four forwards in Japan’s 26-man squad have just 10 international goals combined.
X factor: Defense. With a line drawn from behind arsenal Central defender Tomiyasu and captain Maya Yoshida, Japan is extremely disciplined and organized defensively, making it extremely difficult for opponents to break them. Teams that don’t get points can’t be beaten – not even by Germany or Spain.
Three things you need to know about Japan
Alexi Lalas gives us three things we need to know about Japan ahead of the FIFA Men’s World Cup 2022.
goalkeeper: Shuichi Gonda, Daniel Schmidt, Eiji Kawashima
defender: Miki Yamane, Hiroki Sakai, Maya Yoshida, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Shogo Taniguchi, Ko Itakura, Hiroki Ito, Yuto Nagatomo
midfield player: Wataru Endo, Hidemasa Morita, Ao Tanaka, Gaku Shibasaki, Kaoru Mitoma, Daichi Kamada, Ritsu Doan, Junya Ito, Takumi Minamino, Takefusa Kubo, Yuki Soma
Forward: Daizen Maeda, Takuma Asano, Shuto Machino, Ayase Ueda
Doug McIntyre is a football writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer at ESPN and Yahoo Sports and has covered the United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @By DougMcIntyre.
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