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 

Jun 2015
Japan draw 0-0 at home to Singapore but win every other game in the group after that, keeping clean sheets in each.
Sep 2016
An uphill struggle is in prospect after they lose 2-1 at home to the UAE in their round-three opener.
Nov 2016
A controversial penalty gives Japan the edge shortly before half-time as they beat Saudi Arabia 2-1.
Aug 2017
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 are in Group H with Poland, Colombia, and Senegal.

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

Japan open their World Cup account against Colombia on the 19th of June. Senegal are five days later, and then Poland are four days after that.

The Coach

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.”

Akira Nishino comes in as the new Japan coach (Getty Images)

The Players
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.

Perform: Okazaki (left), Honda, and Kagawa all have to step up and perform in Russia (Getty Images)

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.

In Goal: Kawashima will likely stat in goal (Getty Images)

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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