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
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 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
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.
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 –
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.
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.
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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