As usual, Japan made light work of Asian qualifying, coasting their second round before finishing second in their third to secure a seventh successive World Cup appearance dating back to 1994 when they missed out in the USA.
Having been to the knockouts in three of those - 2002, 2010 and 2018 - and losing on penalties, they would have had their eyes set on progression this year in Qatar, but after being drawn in a group with Spain, Costa Rica and Germany in Group E, their chances of progression look slim at best.
They would appear well suited to be one of the strongest sides to potentially miss out on the knockouts, having narrowly missed out on a medal at the most recent Olympics - they were beaten by Spain in the semi-finals and Mexico in the third-place play-off - to provide their players with valuable experience and were runners-up in the most recent Asia Cup to Qatar.
Japan World Cup 2022 Tips
Read the latest Japan odds ahead of the World Cup, including their odds to win the tournament, odds to claim the golden boot, 101 Great Goals’ top tip and more 2022 World Cup predictions and tips.
Japan World Cup Predictions
While Japan have caused upsets in recent editions of the World Cup, they face a huge challenge just to get out of group having been drawn with two of the favourites.
Japan Golden Boot Prediction
Minamino scored eight goals during qualifying for the World Cup and has become a key player having missed out on two World Cups.
Hajime Moriyasu won 35 caps for Japan during his playing career and, after being Akira Nishino’s assistant in Russia, has been senior head coach since July 2018. Six months later, he led the Samurai Blue to that Asia Cup Final. More recently, Moriyasu’s side have enjoyed friendly wins over Paraguay, Ghana and USA, only beaten 1-0 via a late penalty when Brazil visited Tokyo in June.
Under Moriyasu, Japan deploy a pretty offensive 4-3-3, with Wataru Endo often used as the lone defensive midfielder. Takumi Minamino and Daichi Kamada played as ‘free eights’ during September’s friendlies, while Takefusa Kubo and Kyōgo Furuhashi are very dangerous attackers.
Japan’s strongest area is midfield, which is why they like to control possession, although this might be a challenge in some of their group matches.
Total appearances: 6
First qualification: 1998
Most recent: 2018
Best achievement: Round of 16 (2002, 2010, 2018)
World Ranking: 24
Overall record: P21, W5, D5, L11
Picking one key player from such a well-rounded team is tough but, given that they’ll be facing Spain and Germany, it had to be a defender.
When Takehiro Tomiyasu arrived at Arsenal from Bologna in August 2021, he was largely unknown in England, and was written-off, but Tomiyasu has excelled at Arsenal.
The 23 year old mainly plays as a right-back for his club but has the ability to play anywhere across the backline, as evident by the fact that all 29 of his national team caps have come as a centre-back, playing on the left, alongside captain and former Southampton fans’ favourite Maya Yoshida. It’s no exaggeration to say that Tomiyasu is an outstanding defender anywhere across the back-line, and they’ll need him to be on top form if they’re to spring a surprise or two.
101′s Japan World Cup Tip
In summary, Japan are a really good team, featuring solid defenders, technically excellent midfielders and dangerous forwards, but realistically their World Cup campaign might only be eight days long, given that they find themselves in Group E with Spain and Germany.
In the Samurai Blue’s second game against Costa Rica, they’ll be able to show their true selves, dominating possession and probably picking up three points. Their other two fixtures, it goes without saying, are astronomically tougher, which is why Japan are 12/5 to end on exactly three points. While everyone expects Germany and Spain to advance, in the most unusual of World Cups ever, if you’re feeling bold and want to back Japan to advance, this is priced at 4/1.
Japan stats, fixtures and results
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