Japan's World Cup 2022 Standings
Japan complete Group H, which also includes Poland, Senegal and Colombia. Below you will find their current tournament standings, updated after every matchday.
Japan's Odds To Win The World Cup
Japan has performed well under Halolhodzic, and have every chance of progressing from a group containing Poland, Senegal and Colombia. They are not expected to win the tournament, although they are not the biggest outsiders at the tournament according to the leading sportsbooks - Sports Interaction has listed the Japanese side at +23900.
Although well drilled and with an experienced coach at the helm, Japan will struggle with the skill and tactics employed by Colombia, and the physical presence of Senegal. We actually think they have a decent chance against Poland, as long as they can keep star man Robert Lewandowski quiet.
Sports Interaction has listed Japan as +180 outsiders to qualify from Group H, and our prediction is that they will fail to progress in this year's tournament. In one of the more open groups at the event, we are predicting Colombia to top the group followed by Senegal, with Japan and Poland missing out on the Round of 16. The price on offer for them to do so is -250.
If you disagree and believe Japan can go on a run at the tournament, you will receive very generous odds: +1000 to make the quarter-finals and +2900 to make the semi-finals. We think even if they do progress, they will likely face Belgium or England in the Round of 16, which lessens their chances significantly.
Still, Japan is one of the most skilful and tactically astute teams at the competition and will be great to watch regardless of your wager. We are looking forward to seeing them in action.
Japan's Squad & Key Players
All teams must declare a 30 man squad for the World Cup by the middle of May, while the final 23 man squads don't have to be finalized until the first week of June, just days prior to the tournament start date. We will update you when the team sheets are announced, but first, let's take a look at some of the most important players in the Japanese team and who we think will play a big part in the competition.
Shinji Okazaki (Forward)
Okazaki was a Premier League winner with Leicester City in 2015-16 and provides speed and energy upfront. He is extremely useful in a high-pressing forward line and defends well from the front. He is one of the more experienced players in the Japanese team, having made 108 caps since his debut in 2008. Okazaki has already scored fifty goals for his country, the most of any active player for Japan and the third-most of all time.
Keisuke Honda (Attacking Midfielder)
Honda has had a stellar career that includes stints with CSKA Moscow and AC Milan, where he became known for his impressive set pieces. He has recently made the move to Mexican club Pachuca and has already scored four goals for the team. Honda is another experienced international player, already having played 90 matches for his country. Like many of his Japanese teammates, his biggest skill is his technical ability and ball control.
Maya Yoshida (Defender)
Yoshida has made 118 appearances for the club side Southampton, one of the better defensive sides in the English Premier League. One of the tallest in the Japanese lineup, he is known for his acrobatics, scoring an incredible bicycle kick goal for Dutch side VVV-Venlo earlier in his career. To date, he has made 75 starts for Japan and also captained the side at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
The Coach - Vahid Halilhodzic
Japan has employed a list of international managers over the last two decades, and Halilhodzic is the latest to take over the top job in Japanese football. Having made 406 senior appearances in his senior career between 1971 and 1987, the Yugoslavian-born forward moved into management in 1990 and has led various teams in a variety of locations, including France, Morocco, Croatia and Turkey.
His international coaching career began in 2008 as he enjoyed a reasonably successful stint with the Ivory Coast. He also gained qualification to the World Cup with Algeria prior to the 2014 event in Brazil, which featured their best ever performance at the tournament. Not long after he left that role, he was brought into the Japanese set up, and successfully helped Japan to their sixth consecutive appearance at the World Cup.
Halilhodzic has been praised for his strategic counter-attacking tactics and skilful game management, particularly by the Algerians who were extremely sad to see the veteran go.
Japan's World Cup 2022 Lineup
Japan's last World Cup qualifier was played against Saudi Arabia on September 5th, 2017. They have since appeared in the 2017 EAFF E-1 Football Championship and Kirin Challenge Cup, however, their lineup from the qualification round is more likely to mirror what we see in Russia. The full lineup was as follows.
Starting Lineup (4-1-2-3)
Eiji Kawashima (Metz) - Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Gen Shoji (Kashima Antlers), Hiroki Sakai (Marseille) - Gaku Shibasaki (Getafe) - Yosuke Ideguchi (Cultural Leonesa), Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka) - Genki Haraguchi (Hertha Berlin), Shinji Okazaki (Leicester City), Keisuke Honda (Pachuca).
Reserves: T Makino, T Inui, G Sakai, Y Takahagi, M Higashiguchi, K Sugimoto, Y Kubo, Y Kobayashi, T Asano, K Nakamura, N Ueda, Y Muto.
Japan's World Cup History
Japan's qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup will mark its sixth consecutive appearance at the event, a remarkable achievement for a nation that was beaten 15-2 by the Philippines in their second-ever international match. They have had mixed results at the tournament, reaching the Round of 16 on two occasions and going winless through the group stage on their other three attempts.
Russia could and should have been the Blue Samurai's seventh straight start in the World Cup. The 1994 edition in the USA granted just two places to teams from the Asian confederation, and Japan was leading the standings narrowly as the final round of fixtures approached. 2-1 up in their match against Iraq, the Japanese only had to hold on for stoppage time to advance to their first-ever World Cup, although a last-minute equalizer meant that Japan missed out and South Korea qualified at their expense.
What the Japanese call the 'Agony of Doha' (and the South Koreans call the 'Miracle of Doha') became an inspiration to the national team. In qualifying for the 1998 edition, Japan finished second in their final round group behind old foes South Korea and needed to overcome Iran in a play-off. The match finished level in regulation time before Masashi Nakayama wrote his name into the history books with a 118th-minute golden goal that sent Japan to their first tournament.
Their first taste of World Cup football kicked off in France, although it was largely unsuccessful. Japan lost all three matches but was at least competitive in only being defeated by one goal against each of their opponents (Argentina, Croatia and Jamaica). Their first-ever goal at the tournament was scored in the third match against the Jamaicans, and it was Nakayama again who etched his name in the record books.
2002 saw a dramatic turnaround in the nation's fortunes. At the tournament that they hosted, they managed to go through the group stage undefeated, first drawing with Belgium, recording their first-ever World Cup win against Russia, and securing progression to the Round of 16 with a 2-0 victory over Tunisia. Their first foray into the second round ended at the hands of Turkey, who went on to make the semi-finals.
2006 saw the Japanese grouped alongside Australia, Croatia and Brazil in a tricky group. Their campaign looked to be off to a good start in their opening match, as they led Australia 1-0 until the 84th minute before Tim Cahill ended their hopes with a double in five minutes. They went on to lose 3-1, draw 0-0 with Croatia and finish with a 4-1 hammering at the hands of Brazil to exit in the group stage.
Four years later, Japan made it to the second round for the second time, defeating Cameroon and Denmark on their way to a Round of 16 showdown with Paraguay. This was the closest the Japanese have come to the quarter-finals, taking their game against the South Americans all the way to penalties and falling 5-3 in the shootout.
After another group stage exit in 2014, Japan will be keen to continue their trend of making it to the knockout stages in every other year. However they are certainly in a reasonably easy group, missing out on being drawn alongside the top favourites. They will still be seen as underdogs against Poland, Senegal and Columbia, although they certainly have a decent chance of making it to the Round of 16 for the third time.