Their team will be unknown by a lot, but the few faces that are known are WELL known. Japan is an underdog team this year, but that has never discouraged them from World Cup play in the passed. Having been a fixture in the World Cup uninterrupted since 1998, Japan have seemingly forced their way into the collective “World Cup consciousness”. Their pool has very competative and lacks a top ten team globally, however if they are going to escape group play and make it to elimination play it will be a dog fight the whole way.
Players to watch for:
Shinji Kagawa – One of the faces of the Borussia Dortmund team, Kagawa has had a storied career notably here at Dortmund and at Manchester United before. He has managed 5 goals and 3 assists in 19 games this season for Dortmund in the attacking midfield and is the superstar for Japan heading into the season. The Japan offence will run through him, so look for some Kagawa assists and goals in the box score!
Keisuke Honda – Another well known face of the Japanese International football team, Honda, 31, is still doing it for Mexican Liga MX team CF Pachuca this season. The striker/winger has scored 10 goals in 30 appearances this season, adding 7 assists in that stretch as well. He is well known and beloved by his countries supporters and will still be a focal point of Japan’s offence in his 94+ national caps.
Maya Yoshida – A face known well around the Premier League, and luck enough after a disastrous season by Southampton, Yoshida and Co. managed to avoid relegation. He is a terror in both his own and his opposition’s penalty areas either shutting teams down offensively or bullishly flying through the air to try and smash in a corner or set piece. He will look to put a disappointing season behind him this year and impress for Japan in a weeks time.
Fielding a pretty old squad in this tournament, Japan are looking to their veteran players to lead the way in Russia this summer. They have big names, star power, and European talent, however the gap between them and the bog dogs may be too much to over come should they escape the group stage. However, their group is not impossible to escape. All four teams – Poland, Colombia, Senegal, and Japan have the ability to win that group and for that reason it should be the “must watch” group of the tournament.