It wasn't a smooth qualification run, but Japan did what had to be done and qualified for Russia.

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Japan World Cup Fixtures, Squad, Group, Guide

Japan have been eliminated from the 2018 World Cup.


Japan vs Belgium – Round of 16 (19.00), Rostov-on-Don – Match Report

Belgium Starting XI: 1 Thibaut Courtois, 2 Toby Alderweirald, 4 Vincent Kompany, 5 Jan Vertonghen, 6 Axel Witsel, 7 Kevin De Bruyne9 Romelu Lukaku10 Eden Hazard11 Yannick Carrasco (22 Nacer Chadli 65), 14 Dries Mertens (8 Marouane Fellaini 65), 15 Thomas Meunier

Japan Starting XI: 1 Eiji Kawashina, 3 Gen Shoji, 5 Yuto Nagatomo, 7 Gaku Shibasaki (16 Hotaru Yamaguchi 81), 8 Genki Haraguchi (4 Keisuke Honda 81), 10 Shinji Kagawa, 14 Takeshi Inui, 15 Yuya Osako, 17 Makoto Hasebe, 19 Hiroki Sakai, 22 Maya Yoshida

Rostov-on Don

Belgium 3 Japan 2

Scorers

Belgium: Vertonghen 69, Fellaini 74, Chadli 90+4

Japan: Haraguchi 48, Inui 52

Match overview

Belgium staged one of the most astonishing comebacks ever seen at a World Cup to recover from 2-0 down to beat Japan 3-2 and set up a quarter-final against Brazil.

Japan surprised Belgium in the first half by pressing high up the pitch and denying the favourites time and space. Fears that Japan might not sustain their level of pressure after the break were blown away in four incredible minutes when Japan twice stunned Belgium.

After Eden Hazard hit a post and Romelu Lukaku headed wide from close range, it looked as if Belgium were heading out. But a double substitution restored the balance to the Belgian midfield in a breathtaking final half-hour, when Marouane Fellaini and Jan Vertonghen both scored.

Despite losing their two-goal lead, Japan pushed for the win until the end, opening themselves up for the counter-attack and Belgium scored with the last move of the game.

Matter of fact

The last time a side came from 2-0 down to win in the knockout stages in normal time was West Germany against Hungary in the 1954 Final.

Talking point

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez made crucial substitutions that changed the game. Marouane Fellaini brought more phyicality the Belgian midfield, allowing Kevin De Bruyne to play further forward, while Nacer Chadli scored the dramatic winner.

Stats

Belgium/Japan

Possession (%): 56/44

Goal attempts: 24/11

Attempts on target: 10/4

Corners: 10/6

Fouls: 13/9

Pass accuracy (%): 87/83

Distance covered (km): 108/109


Japan vs Poland (28th June) Match Report

Match preview here.

Japan Starting XI: 1 Eiji Kawashima, 5 Yuto Nagatomo, 7 Gaku Shibasaki, 9 Shinji Okazaki (15 Yuya Osako 47), 11 Takeshi Usami (14 Takashi Inai 65), 13 Yoshinori Muto (17 Makoto Hasebe 82), 16 Hotaru Yamaguchi, 19 Hiroki Sakai, 20 Tomoaki Makino, 21 Gotoku Sakai, 22 Maya Yoshida

Poland Starting XI: 1 Lucasz Fabianski, 3 Artur Jedrzejczyk, 5 Jan Bednarek, 6 Jacek Goralski, 9 Robert Zielinski (14 Lukasz Teodrczyk 79), 10 Grzegorz Krychowiak, 11 Kamil Grosicki, 15 Kamil Glik, 18 Bartosz Bereszynski, 19 Piotr Zielinski, 21 Rafal Kurzawa (17 Slawomir Peszko 79)

Volgograd

Japan 0 Poland 1

Scorer

Poland: Bednarek 59

Match overview

Japan lost their final group game to Poland and scraped into the knockout stages by the slimmest of margins, edging out Senegal by virtue of having collected fewer yellow cards.

A draw would been enough for Japan to qualify but Poland, bolstered by centre-back Kamil Glik’s return to the starting line-up, were a much stronger prospect than in their first two games.

Eiji Kawashima produced a brilliant save to palm away Kamil Grosicki’s header from the line but he was powerless to prevent Jan Bednarek volleying home from close range for the game’s only goal.

Matter of fact

Poland received four yellow cards, compared to Senegal’s six, in the group stage. 

Talking point

Japan coach made six changes to his starting line-up and the alterations upset the balance of the team.

Stats

Japan/Poland

Possession (%): 54/46

Goal attempts: 10/11

Attempts on target: 4/5

Corners: 5/7

Fouls: 11/8

Pass accuracy (%): 84/83

Distance covered (km): 83/80


Japan vs Senegal (24th June) Match Report

Match preview here

Senegal Starting XI: 16 Khadim N’Diaye, 3 Kalidou Koulibaly, 5 Idrissa Gueye , 6 Salif Sane, 10 Sadio Mane, 12 Youssouf Sabaly, 13 Alfred N’Diaye (8 Cheikhou Kouyate 65), 17 Badou N’Diaye (11 Cheikh N’Doye 81), 18 Ismaila Sarr, 19 M’Baye Niang (9 Mame Diouf 86), 22 Moussa Wague

Japan Starting XI: 1 Eiji Kawashima, 3 Gen Shoji, 5 Yuto Nagatomo, 7 Gaku Shibasaki, 8 Genki Haraguchi (9 Shiunji Okazaki 75), 10 Shinji Kagawa (4 Keisuke Honsa 72), 14 Takeshi Inui (11 Takeshi Usami 87), 15 Yuya Osako, 17 Makoto Hasebe, 19 Hikori Sakai, 22 Maya Yoshida

Yekaterinburg

Japan 2 Senegal 2

Scorers

Japan: Inui 34, Honda 71

Senegal: Mane 11, Wague 78

Match overview

Japan and Senegal shared the spoils after a tight contest saw both sides show both their attacking qualities and defensive frailties.

Senegal made a strong start and took the lead through Sadio Mane but their concentration levels dropped and Takeshi Inui equalised.

Japan were the better team in the second half but could not take advantage: Yuya Osako missed an open goal and Inui hit the crossbar. They were punished when Senegal scored a second goal through Moussa Wague but poor goalkeeping allowed Japan to grab a second equaliser

Matter of fact

Keisuke Honda became the first Japanese player to score at three World Cups.

Talking point

For all the talk of the attacking threat pose by Sadio Mane, Senegal’s best attacks came from their full-backs. Youssouf Sabaly and Moussa Wague combined for Senegal’s second goal, when Wague became the youngest African goalscorer at a World Cup.

Stats

Japan/Senegal

Possession (%): 53/47

Goal attempts: 7/13

Attempts on target: 2/5

Corners: 2/5

Fouls: 8/14

Pass accuracy (%): 83/79

Distance covered (km): 105/102


Japan vs Colombia (19th June) Match Report

In their opening game Japan face Colombia in one of three games on the 19th of June. Match preview here.

Colombia Starting XI: 1 David Ospina, 3 Oscar Murillo, 4 Santiago Arias, 6 Carlos Sanchez, 9 Radamel Falcao, 11 Juan Cuadrado (5 Wilmar Barrios 31), 16 Jefferson Lerma, 17 Johan Mojica, 20 Juan Quintero (10 James Rodriguez 59), 21 Jose Izquierdo (7 Carlos Bacca 70), 23 Davinson Sanchez

Japan Starting XI: 1 Eiji Kawashima, 3 Gen Shoji, 5 Yuto Nagatomo, 7 Gaku Shibasaki (16 Hotaru Yamaguchi 80), 8 Genki Haraguchi, 10 Shinji Kagawa (4 Keisuke Honda 70), 14 Takeshi Inui, 15 Yuya Osako (9 Shinji Okazaki 85), 17 Makoto Hasebe, 19 Hiroki Sakai, 22 Maya Yoshida

Saransk

Colombia 1 Japan 2

Scorers: 

Colombia: Quintero

Japan: Kagawa, Osako

Match overview

Japan won their first World Cup match on European soil and also became the first Asian country to beat a South American nation after Yuya Osako’s second-half header gave them victory over a Colombia side that played the bulk of the game with 10 men following the early expulsion of Carlos Sanchez.

The first red card of the tournament gave Japan the chance to control game after Kagawa converted the penalty. But Colombia were the better side for the first half and equalised through Juan Quintero’s clever free-kick.

Japan made their numerical advantage count after the break when the impressive Takeshi Inui went close and from the resulting corner, Osako headed the winner.

Key moment

The 3rd-minute sending-off of Carlos Sanchez, who raised his arm to block Kagawa’s follow-up shot after David Ospina had saved the original shot from Yuya Osako. The confusion in the Colombian defence had stemmed from Davidson Sanchez’s failure to clear a routine bouncing ball.

Yuya Osako scored the winner for Japan to secure a 2-1 win. (Getty Images)

Matter of fact

Juan Quintero became the first player to score in two different World Cup finals for Colombia.

Talking point

James Rodriguez, Colombia’s outstanding player at the 2014 finals, was left out of the starting line-up after failing to fully recover from a hamstring injury. Coach Jose Pekerman preferred to start with Juan Quintero, who scored Colombia’s equalising goal. Instead of playing for the point, Pekerman made positive second-half substitutions, introducing a second forward, Carlos Bacca, and bringing on Rodriguez for Quintero for the final half-hour 

Stats

Colombia/Japan

Possession (%): 42/58

Goal attempts: 8/14

Attempts on target: 1/5

Corners: 3/6

Fouls: 15/9

Pass accuracy (%): 79/85

Distance covered (km): 93/101


Japan World Cup 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 lost to Ghana and Switzerland on the 30th of May and 8th of June respectively. They finally beat Paraguay 4-2 on the 12th.

  • 23rd March – Mali (drew 1-1)
  • 27th March – Ukraine (lost 2-1)
  • 30th May – Ghana (lost 2-0)
  • 8th June – Switzerland (lost 2-0)
  • 12th June – Paraguay (won 4-2)

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
Stars
Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda, Shinji Okazaki and Yuto Nagatomo should all be in Russia, but their playing time has been sharply reduced.
Stalwarts
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.
Missing
Influential captain Makoto Hasebe was missing for much of 2017 through injury.
Debuts
Youngsters now making their mark include Yuya Kubo, Takuma Asano, Yosuke Ideguchi and Wataru Endo.

Related: World Cup Stadiums

Japan World Cup Squad

Final 23-man squad – 

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); 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).

FORWARDS: Shinji Okazaki (Leicester), Yuya Osako (Werder Bremen), Yoshinori Muto (Mainz).

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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