After defeating Australia 2-0 in round three of the AFC World Cup Qualifying, Japan secured its spot at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Drawn into Group E, the Japanese will have a tough group stage, facing former winners in Spain and Germany, as well as Costa Rica. Though it will be hard, Japan has a shot at advancing due to these five reasons.
Good Qualification Tournament
Japan had a solid qualifying tournament in the AFC World Cup Qualifiers. The Japanese finished first in their group in the second round of the Asian Qualifiers to move on to the third round, where the team secured a qualification. In the second round, Japan finished with a record of 8-0-0, scoring 46 points and conceding two for the highest goal differential of its group at 44. The team then moved on to round three, where they stumbled in the beginning, losing two of their first three games. However, the Japanese won their next six games to clinch their spot, finishing with a record of 7W-1D-2L in round three. Japan scored 12 goals and gave up four for the highest goal differential of the group once again at eight. The national team’s resilience to bounce back after a couple losses should help Japan at the group stage.
Other Team’s Recent Failures
Although Japan was given a difficult draw with Spain and Germany, the team shouldn’t be deterred. Both the recent World Cup odds winners have faced difficulty recently, falling in some international competitions. Germany had an early exit in both the Euro 2020 Tournament as well as the 2018 World Cup, while Spain failed to live up to its potential following its World Cup win, sending the team to a rebuild. While it still may be a tall task, Japan has the opportunity to upset a couple top teams in the group stage.
Experience on the Team
The World Cup soccer 2022 will be Japan’s seventh tournament in a row. Japan’s last appearance saw them make it past the group stage before falling in the round of 16, the team’s third time doing so. Japan will be expecting to return some of that experience from the team’s recent World Cup appearances. Midfielders Genki Haraguchi and Gaku Shibasaki are likely to grab a spot, while Yuto Nagatomo and Maya Yoshida will bring a veteran presence to the defense. Forward Yuya Osako and goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima are also likely to return from the 2018 squad, giving Japan World Cup experience at every position.
As shown in the AFC World Cup Qualifying tournament, the Japanese National Team has a solid attacking front. Though the team recently fell 3-0 to Tunisia in a disastrous Kirin Cup final, Japan’s attacking front has helped the team remain one of the top teams in Asia. Midfielder Takumi Minamino led Japan in goals in the AFC World Cup Qualifying with six, while Osako followed with three. Forwards Kyogo Furuhashi and Junya Ito also bring a scoring threat to Japan’s attack. If the national team can learn from its mistakes against Tunisia and involve more of its scorers, Japan should cause some issues against opposing defenses.
World Cup experience isn’t the only thing the national team has going for them, as a few players on the team also boast experience in the European leagues. While Minamino recently departed Liverpool, he still brings experience against top players in the Premier League. Defender Takehiro Tomiyasu also adds Premier League experience from playing on Arsenal while midfielder Takefusa Kubo has had time in Europe as well, currently playing with Real Madrid. Ito and Yoshida also play for European teams, with Ito a part of Genk and Yoshida with Schalke 04. Spain and Germany are the teams expected to make it past the group stage, however with player experience against European teams, Japan won’t make it easy.