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Japan’s Squad for FIFA World Cup 2022 & Team Profile

Japan announced the 26-man squad list for the 2022 World Cup. Coach Hajime Moriyasu made some debatable exclusions. In this article, check out the Japan FIFA World Cup 2022 squad, fixtures, lineups and team analysis.

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Last updated: 13.11.2022
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Japan announced the 26-man squad list for the 2022 World Cup on 7th November 2022 being one of the first nations to submit their final list. Coach Hajime Moriyasu made some debatable exclusions from an otherwise talented squad and one of the best Japan are fielding in Qatar. They are one of the six nations participating from Asia, a record representation of the continent in the tournament. 

  

World Cup History

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Japan’s World Cup history is more recent with their first appearance coming in 1998 when they got knocked out in the group stages without winning a match or taking a point. Four years later they co-hosted the tournament which was historical for them to bloom in World Cup stages in years to come. The Blue Samurais reached the round of 16 on home soil registering their first wins on the World Cup stage and also drawing against Belgium staying unbeaten in the group stages in an admirable way. However, they lost to a strong Turkish team in the next round 1-0. Japan switched between group stages and the round of 16 stages in the next four editions. Keisuke Honda is probably the greatest footballer the nation has produced in history and on the World Cup stage. He is the top scorer for the Blue Samurais in this competition with four goals including two strikes in 2010 World Cup in South Africa and one a piece in the next two editions. Center-back Makoto Hasebe, Goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima and Yuto Nagatomo are record appearance makers in the World Cup for Japan with the latter two still in the national team setup.       

 

Last Tournament

Japan have never advanced to the quarterfinal stages of the World Cup coming closer in the last edition held in 2018. In a stunning match against Belgium in the last 16 stages, the Blue Samurais went 2-0 up eight minutes into the second half after a goalless first period with Genki Haraguchi and Takashi Inui getting the goals but the Red Devils roared back with Jan Vertonghen and Marouane Fellaini finding the back of the net with quick succession before Nacer Chadli scored a dramatic late winner on the break after Japan have committed a lot of bodies forward in anticipation of scoring the goal that will take them through from a corner. It was heartbreak for Japan but one which they will build on in tournaments to come. They were placed in a competitive group with Colombia, Senegal and Poland in the group stages and came out in second emphatically, pipping the nation from Africa level on points after three games for a better disciplinary record. Japan’s 2-1 success against Colombia made them the first Asian team to win against a South American nation in the World Cup.       

 

Qualification

Japan are set to participate in their seventh World Cup taking a bit of a rocky ride in the qualification from the Asian Football Confederation or the AFC region. They started with a shock defeat to 1-0 Oman and also lost against Saudi Arabia in only three games of the final round also requiring a late own goal to decide their win over Australia in the first encounter. The Blue Samurais managed to turn the table afterwards winning against Vietnam, taking revenge over Oman and Saudi Arabia in the reverse fixture then needed a late brace from super-sub Kaoru Mitoma against the Socceroo to clinch a direct qualification berth to Qatar. In the end, they won seven games from ten scoring 12 goals and despite the waffles, conceded only four. Now at Monaco, Takumi Minamino and Yuya Osako scored the highest number of goals with 10 over the qualification rounds for Japan with Junya Ito also grabbing six. The Stade Reims winger also got the most number of assists by any player with seven. Goalkeeper Shuichi Honda also got 11 clean sheets, the most registered and at least one more than any other keeper in the qualification round.

 

Preparation

Preperation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar got off to a flying start for Japan as Paraguay failed to withstand the home side’s attack in a 4-1 loss in the first of the friendly played last June only days after the qualification games concluded. The narrow 1-0 loss to Brazil next that too settled with a spot kick from Neymar showed more spirits than the score-line would suggest. Another 4-1 win followed, the opposition being Ghana this time out. Although, they ended the month with a 3-0 loss to Tunisia was not pleasing to the eye as Japan’s rollercoaster ride continued in September. The Asian nation grabbed a big win in September over the USA but failed to do the same in the goalless stalemate against Ecuador. Japan will play the last pre-World Cup friendly against a highly spirited team in Canada in Dubai two days before the tournament kick-off in Qatar.

     

Japan FIFA World Cup squad 2022:

 

Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima (Strasbourg), Shuichi Gonda (Shimizu S-Pulse), Daniel Schmidt (Sint-Truidense)

Defenders: Yuto Nagatomo (FC Tokyo), Maya Yoshida (Schalke), Shogo Taniguchi (Kawasaki Frontale), Takehiro Tomiyasu (Arsenal), Ko Itakura (Borussia Monchengladbach), Hiroki Ito (Stuttgart), Hiroki Sakai (Urawa Reds), Miki Yamane (Kawasaki Frontale)

Midfielders: Wataru Endo (Stuttgart), Ao Tanaka (Dusseldorf), Hidemasa Morita (Sporting), Gaku Shibasaki (Leganes), Junya Ito (Stade de Reims), Ritsu Doan (Freiburg), Daichi Kamada (Eintracht Frankfurt), Takumi Minamino (Monaco), Takefusa Kubo (Real Sociedad), Kaoru Mitoma (Brighton), Yuki Soma (Nagoya Grampus)

Forwards: Daizen Maeda (Celtic), Takuma Asano (Bochum), Ayase Ueda (Cercle Brugge)

 

Coach: Hajime Moriyasu

 

It was a surprise or rather shock to many when Celtic duo Rio Hatete and Kyogo Furuhashi’s name was not announced in the final list of Japan’s squad while their teammate Daizen Maeda did. The 25-year-old netted three goals in 14 matches for the Scottish champions but compared to Furuhashi’s 10 goals in 13, the math is a no-brainer to show the best finisher between the two. Yet the former Vissel Kobe forward has not convinced coach Hajime Moriyasu for some reason having played the friendlies for his national team earlier this year. Hatete’s exclusion is also crucial as his intelligence to play forward passes or drift away from pressured areas would have been useful although the competition in the midfield region could be the cause here. Only seven players in the squad have World Cup experience before with the others making their debut in the competition. Yuta Nakayama withdraws from the squad after suffering an Achilles tendon injury.  


Strength

Head Coach Hajime Moriyasu said he was always looking for a blend of youth along with experienced campaigners to make the group stress on ambition and energy to be productive in the tournament. This is exactly the strength Japan would have perceived facing some of the top nations in the tournament. Their depth is another thing to talk about defiantly in midfield with a special focus on the Bundesliga duo of Wataru Endo and Daichi Kamada. Endo is an incredible anchor ready to mop out the opposition attack with his tackles and interception whereas Kamada’s productivity from midfield keeps on rising for his club Eintracht Frankfurt season after season. The wing department is also pretty strong with Ritsu Doan, Junya Ito and forwards like Takefusa Kubo and Kaoru MItoma taking turns to show their brilliance.

    

Weakness

The inexperience of the squad and a tough group to endure could be the downfall of this side wishing to reach the knockouts. Paired in a group containing former winners in Spain and Germany might be too big of a task for this unit facing the pressure of a tournament like the World Cup for the very first time. Another big issue that can haunt the squad is the absence of a scoring forward. While Minamino is a prominent scorer for the national side and Kamada from midfield is often finding the net for his club, it is still a desired position in the team lacking behind. The strikers selected has a combined total of ten goals which is equal to what Kyogo Furuhashi have for Celtic alone and he did not find a place in the team. This could be the error in judgement from Hajime Moriyasu costing the team in Qatar.

 

Star Player: Takumi Minamino


It is hard to single out one player from the cluster of talents in the squad to produce the excellence for Japan although the needy contribution can come in from Takumi Minamino. He has not enjoyed the best of club seasons since joining Liverpool and has not been in a good run of form for his new club Monaco, arriving there this summer. However, Minamino’s commitment to his national side is unmistakable ending as the top scorer in the qualifying for Japan and also setting up his teammates in good positions to do the business. He is a creative hub for Japan and his service will be required alongside the likes of Daichi Kamada to help the Blue Samurais to have a say in this tournament.      


How Japan will Lineup at FIFA World Cup 2022?


Moriyasu talked about ambition in the squad and he will stake his claim if he fields this eleven to fit his attacking style of play. However, a tough group will force him to be more solid than throwing every attacker in the starting eleven. Still, Japan can unfold positive football with the 4-3-3 formation filling energy, speed and precision in their play. Even goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda’s position could be uncertain although he has been the number one for Japan ahead of the experienced Eiji Kawashima for some time now. The forward line is hard to predict boasting a few tasty talents on show. Kaoru Mitoma could slot in the false nine role if the coach doesn’t go with Maeda up front to bring more flexibility and movement to the frontline. The two tricky wingers, Ritsu Doan and Junya Ito could accompany him or else Minamino could be moved higher on the pitch to produce more output in goals.

      

Opponents & Fixtures

Germany vs Japan - 23 November 2022, Khalifa International Stadium (6:30 PM)

Japan vs Costa Rica - 27 November 2022, Ahmed bin Ali Stadium (3:30 PM)

Japan vs Spain - 2 December 2022, Khalifa International Stadium (12:30 AM)

 

Japan will have a grueling start to their 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign facing Germany on 23rd November in the opening group stage game which will be a huge test of their mantle. Taking an unlikely draw from the game will be a huge result for this squad moving to the next game against Costa Rica four days later sky high in their belief. They can certainly wish for three points in that fixture before taking another gigantic task in Spain in the final group stage game.

   

Prediction

Coach Hajime Moriyasu has said Japan’s target must be the quarterfinals of the contest and nothing less, a stage they haven’t reached yet in their World Cup history, to have the next big leap in Japanese football. However, he will know the kind of task required to achieve that with tough nuts to crack in the group stages with an inexperienced side and other talented teams to arrive in the knockout if they make out of it by any chance. Nevertheless, the team stores a lot of talent having the potential to cause trouble to higher-ranked sides than themselves and even though a group stage elimination looks likely, they can bow out with heads held high.

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