Japan is one of the teams that always appears at World Cups. In fact, since the 1998 World Cup in France, they have not missed a single World Cup, taking part in all the World Cups held.
In the qualifying matches, in the first round they managed to advance without losing a single match, beating Mongolia 14-0 and Burma 10-0. However, in the second qualifying round they lost two of their first three matches, which meant they were in danger of missing out on the tournament and Japan’s customary World Cup qualification. However, they finally made it through to the world tournament without any major problems, beating Australia and earning a place in the World Cup for both Saudi Arabia and Japan, with 23 and 22 points respectively.
Japan, despite not obtaining great results in the form of international titles, is the 24th ranked team in the FIFA ranking, ahead of teams such as Poland, Korea, Chile, Austria or Czech Republic among many others. This makes clear the regularity and consistency in the work of the Japanese in order to participate in major world events.
The truth is that the Japanese team has a great squad, with very good stability and consistency. They have good substitutes to give rest to their first team squad, which consists of Shuichi Gonda, Hiroki Sakai, Maya Yoshida, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Yuto Nagamoto, Wataru Endo, Gaku Shibasaki, Junya Ito, Takumi Minamino, Yuya Osako and Daichi Kamada. Undoubtedly a line-up that shows great quality as a whole, with individuals such as Maya Yoshida who plays during the regular season for German club Schalke 04 or Takehiro Tomiyasu who plays for Premier League powerhouse Arsenal. They also have other players competing in Europe, such as Wataru Endō at Stuttgart or Daichi Kamada at Eintrach Frankfurt.
This is perhaps one of the big differences compared to other Asian teams where most of the players remain in the top league in their country instead of going to Europe, where they have been able to grow as players and compete in the best leagues in the world alongside the best players in the world.
Although Japan is a very complete team and can give any other team a run for their money, it is true that the group they have been drawn in is a tough one. Germany and Spain, two of the favourites for the World Cup title, are in the group, although both are surely aware of Japan’s chances of making it difficult for them to advance.
We will see what role Japan plays in the World Cup, but they are certainly one of the teams that are likely to cause a surprise and advance much further in the tournament than many people would imagine.