Two former World Cup winners – Spain i Germany — are the clear favorites to advance, and their meeting on Nov. 27 is the marquee game of the first round. Stingy Japan have a strong roster and are the most likely of the other two teams to upset the natural order if one of the giants slips away. As for aging Costa Ricasurviving the first round will be very important.
Everything you need to know about Japan:
Coach: Hajime Moriyasu
Higher finish: Round of 16 (2002, 2010, 2018)
End 2018: Round of 16
FOX betting odds: +25,000
Key players: Daichi Kamada, Takumi Minamino, Takehiro Tomiyasu
What we are excited to see: Japan enjoys the underdog role and tends to outperform expectations. In 2018, they survived a group that contained colombia, poland i Senegal and then gave Belgiumall they could manage in the second round. Don’t be surprised if they upset one of their decorated European foes.
What success looks like: Getting out of the first round in back-to-back World Cups would be an unprecedented achievement for the Blue Samurai. Winning a knockout round game for the first time would be even better.
Whole Achilles: Score. The front four in Japan’s 26-man squad have just 10 international goals between them.
X Factor: defense With a back line led by arsenal Central defender Tomiyasu and captain Maya Yoshida, Japan are ultra-disciplined and organized defensively, making them extremely difficult to break down from opponents. Teams that don’t concede goals cannot be beaten, even by teams like Germany or Spain.
Three things you need to know about Japan
Alexi Lalas gives us three things to know about Japan ahead of the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup.
The goalkeepers: Shuichi Gonda, Daniel Schmidt, Eiji Kawashima
defenders: Miki Yamane, Hiroki Sakai, Maya Yoshida, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Shogo Taniguchi, Ko Itakura, Hiroki Ito, Yuto Nagatomo
midfielders: Wataru Endo, Hidemasa Morita, Ao Tanaka, Gaku Shibasaki, Kaoru Mitoma, Daichi Kamada, Ritsu Doan, Junya Ito, Takumi Minamino, Takefusa Kubo, Yuki Soma
in front: Daizen Maeda, Takuma Asano, Shuto Machino, Ayase Ueda
Doug McIntyre is a football writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a writer for ESPN and Yahoo Sports and has covered the US men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @By Doug McIntyre.
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