It wasn't a smooth qualification run, but Japan did what had to be done and qualified for Russia.
Japan World Cup Fixtures, Squad, Group, Guide
Japan qualified automatically for their sixth consecutive World Cup with commanding performances in the games that mattered, but there were also hiccups along the way – such as a home loss to the UAE. After the sacking of coach Vahid Halilhodzic the team is far from settled, with Akira Nishino expected to make changes.
Key Moments in Qualifying
Japan draw 0-0 at home to Singapore but win every other game in the group after that, keeping clean sheets in each.
An uphill struggle is in prospect after they lose 2-1 at home to the UAE in their round-three opener.
A controversial penalty gives Japan the edge shortly before half-time as they beat Saudi Arabia 2-1.
Yosuke Ideguchi sets up the first and scores in the second to secure automatic qualification in a 2-0 win over Australia – Japan’s first-ever World Cup qualifying victory over their opponents in eight attempts.
Japan World Cup Group
Japan World Cup Friendlies
On the 23rd of March Japan played against Mali, and then four days later they lost 2-1 to Ukraine. They then welcome Ghana on the 30th of May, before playing Switzerland and then Paraguay on the 8th and 12th of June respectively.
- 23rd March – Mali (drew 1-1)
- 27th March – Ukraine (lost 2-1)
- 30th May – Ghana
- 8th June – Switzerland
- 12th June – Paraguay
Japan World Cup Fixtures
Akira Nishino, age 63 (07.04.55)
Nishino comes in after the recent sacking of former Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic. Nishino, a former player, was the technical director of the Japanese soccer association and his appointment comes as a surprise with less than 2 months to go before the World Cup. Association president Kozo Tashima said “This has become an urgent situation. For the new coach, we had no choice but to promote from within the association as the World Cup is only two months away.” Tashima added, “We thought the coach should be someone who has watched this team the most from within the association.”
Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda, Shinji Okazaki and Yuto Nagatomo should all be in Russia, but their playing time has been sharply reduced.
Maya Yoshida is a rock at the heart of defence. Hotaru Yamaguchi is now the key holding player in midfield, while Eiji Kawashima is back as the first choice in goal.
Influential captain Makoto Hasebe was missing for much of 2017 through injury.
Youngsters now making their mark include Yuya Kubo, Takuma Asano, Yosuke Ideguchi and Wataru Endo.
Related: World Cup Stadiums
Japan World Cup Squad
Preliminary World Cup Squad – Final 23-man squad is yet to be confirmed
GOALKEEPERS: Eiji Kawashima (Metz), Masaaki Higashiguchi (Gamba Osaka), Kosuke Nakamura (Kashiwa Reysol).
DEFENDERS: Yuto Nagatomo (Galatasaray), Tomoaki Makino, Wataru Endo (Urawa Reds), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Hiroki Sakai (Marseille), Gotoku Sakai (Hamburg); Gen Shoji, Naomichi Ueda (Kashima Antlers).
MIDFIELDERS: Makoto Hasebe (Eintracht Frankfurt); Toshihiro Aoyama (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Keisuke Honda (Pachuca), Takashi Inui (Eibar), Shinji Kagawa (Dortmund), Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka), Genki Haraguchi, Takashi Usami (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Gaku Shibasaki (Getafe), Ryota Oshima (Kawasaki Frontale), Kento Misao (Kashima Antlers), Yosuke Ideguchi (Leonesa).
FORWARDS: Shinji Okazaki (Leicester), Yuya Osako (Werder Bremen), Yoshinori Muto (Mainz), Takuma Asano (Stuttgart)
Japan World Cup Injuries
We will update you with injuries here.
The Unanswered Questions
Who are the strikers?
The midfield formation varies but Halilhodzic liked to stick with a three-man front line. It is hard to tell where Nishino will take the team. Yuya Osako is the first-choice centre-forward but all three positions are still up for grabs.
Who will provide the ammunition for the front three?
Makoto Hasebe, if fit, but watch out for new faces here, notably Ideguchi and Shu Kurata – both players also possess superb long-range shots.
Who will keep goal?
Eiji Kawashima was back as first choice in the final qualifiers and Shusaku Nishikawa is now back in the squad.
Can Japan defend?
It’s the same old question that just won’t go away. The organisation is there but there may be just too many covering errors for success at the very top level.
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