Japan World Cup Fixtures, Squad, Group, Guide

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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. Coach Vahid Halilhodzic has never stopped tinkering and bringing in young talent, so the team is far from settled yet.

Related: World Cup TV Schedule

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

Related: World Cup Friendlies

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.

Related: World Cup Fixtures

The Coach

Vahid Halilhodzic, age 65 (15.10.52)
Led Algeria in Brazil 2012 and took over Japan in March 2015 after Javier Aguirre was sacked in relation to match-fixing investigations in Spain. He has produced the results and had great success in blooding young players in big games, but it has not always been a smooth journey.

Bumpy Ride: He has got the results but it has not always been smooth for Halilhodzic (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

Preliminary World Cup Squad – 

Goalkeepers – Eiji Kawashima, Kosuke Nakamura, Shusaku Nishikawa

Defenders – Tomoaki Makino, Masato Morishige, Yuto Nagatomo, Gotoku Sakai, Hiroki Sakai, Gen Shoji, Naomichi Ueda, Maya Yoshida

Midfielders – Wataru Endo, Makato Hasebe, Yosuke Ideguchi, Shinji Kagawa, Hotaru Yamaguchi

Forwards – Genki Haraguchi, Keisuke Honda, Takashi Inui, Yuya Kubo, Shoya Nakajima, Shinji Okazaki, Yuya Osako

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 likes to stick with a three-man front line. 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 but Halilhodzic likes to play mind games (Getty Images)

Who will keep goal?
Eiji Kawashima was back as first choice in the final qualifiers but Halilhodzic plays mind games 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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