Seventh Consecutive WC for the Blue Samurai
Japan hasn’t missed a World Cup since 1998. Additionally, the Blue Samurai have advanced to the Round of 16 three times. In other words, we’re talking about a disciplined team that’s used to putting up a good fight.
Advancing to the Round of 16 in the 2022 edition won’t be easy, though. The Blue Samurai are in Group E, better known as the Group of Death, in which they’ll face two former champions and one underdog who pulled off an incredible stunner eight years ago.
Nevertheless, according to the latest Las Vegas odds, this time they’ve a better chance to be the Cinderella team.
How Did They Get to Qatar 2022?
Led by Takumi Minamino, nowadays Japan’s top player, the Blue Samurai had no trouble winning Group F in the second round of the Asian Football Confederation qualifiers. In fact, they did it with a perfect 8-0-0 record, 46 goals for and only two against. No, that 46 isn’t a typo. No other team scored more goals than them. Iran was second with 34.
Things were a bit more complicated in the third and final round. The Blue Samurai finished second in Group B, one point behind Saudi Arabia. They finished with a 7-1-2 record, 12 goals for and four against. They lost to Saudi Arabia on the road and to Oman at home.
Finishing second was enough to win one of the four direct tickets that were available. Let’s not forget that Qatar was already qualified due to being the host. In the end, the AFC will be represented by six teams as Australia managed to beat Peru in the inter-continental playoff.
Individually, Minamino ended up scoring 10 goals, same as Yuya Osako.
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Head Coach & Top Players
Japan’s national team is coached by Hajime Moriyasu, who’s 54 years old and has won the J1 League title three times. He conquered the domestic league championship while coaching the Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Later, he became Japan’s U-23 team manager. He coached the young Blue Samurai from 2017 to 2021, finishing with a 10-2-6 record. In 2018, he also assumed the senior team, a very common practice in soccer. Since he took over, the team is 38-7-10. Besides the 2022 WC, he led them to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Grand Finale and to win the EAFF E-1 Football Championship in 2022.
Regarding the team’s top players, besides Minamino and Osako, goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda also deserves some praise. The 33-year-old veteran, who currently plays for Shimizu S-Pulse, will be making his debut at soccer’s grandest stage. However, he already represented the Blue Samurai at the Olympic Games in 2012.
You should also pay close attention to Daichi Kamada, who last season won the UEFA Europa League with Eintracht Frankfurt and currently is one of the top scorers in the Bundesliga. He’s a certified scorer despite not playing as a striker.
Japan in the 2022 World Cup
Let’s see. Japan will make its debut against Germany, a game for which they’re offering a +750 price in the sportsbook. Later, they’ll face Costa Rica, for which they’re the slight favorites at +140. Finally, they’ll collide with Spain, no odds at the time of writing, but make sure to check the soccer lines constantly.
Japan’s offering a +1400 price to win Group E. As expected, Spain’s the favorite at -120, while Germany is +120. Costa Rica comes last at +3300. In 2014, Los Ticos faced Uruguay, Italy and England. They ended up winning the group.
Individually, Minamino is offering a +15000 price to win the Golden Boot, same as Osako. Some teams don’t even have a player on the list.
History of Japan & the World Cup
After finishing 31st in the 1998 edition, Japan co-hosted the 2002 WC alongside South Korea. The Blue Samurai took advantage of that to advance to the Round of 16 for the first time, in which they lost 1-0 to Turkey.
They advanced to the Round of 16 for the second time in the 2010 edition. They faced Paraguay and the game finished 0-0, including overtime. The South Americans won the penalty shootout 5-3.
Most recently, in Russia 2018, they made it out of the Group Stage once again and put up a good fight against Belgium in the Round of 16, but still lost 3-2.
Individually, Keisuke Honda is the team’s top scorer at the WC with four goals. He’s still active but won’t be in Qatar 2022.