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FIFA World Cup team profile: Japan hope to make their mark

Japan will be hoping to assert their dominance on the world stage after having made their mark in Asia.

football Updated: Jun 11, 2018 17:52 IST
Sayan Ghosh
Sayan Ghosh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
FIFA World Cup,World Cup 2018,World Cup Russia
Japan's defender Hiroki Sakai (up) and Switzerland's midfielder Steven Zuber (R) vie during an international friendly football match between Switzerland and Japan at Cornaredo stadium in Lugano.(AFP)

Head coach: Akira Nishino

World Cup history: Qualified five times

Best: Round of 16 in 2002 and 2010

Qualifying route: Topped Group B of Asian qualifying

The ‘Samurai Blue’, nickname of the Japan football team, are traditional powerhouses when it comes to Asian football. They are well known for their exquisite ball control and passing which has helped them in maintaining their position over the years and there are not many teams in Asia who are superior than coach Akira Nishino’s side. But, on the global stage, Japan have never tasted much success and in spite of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup for consecutive six times, the team has made it to the round of 16 just twice in their history - 2002 and 2010. However, the four-time Asian champions will be looking to improve their performance when they take the field in World Cup 2018.

Nishino was a hasty appointment by the Japan football association after Vahid Halilhodzic was fired from his position in April and as a result, the team is still finding its feet under new management. In the recent training sessions in Austria, besides the new 3-4-2-1 formation, the team also tried 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 formations, but it is difficult to predict the exact strategy that they will employ in Russia.

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Nishino has also shown a great deal of trust on the team’s experienced players as Japan’s 23-man World Cup squad has a number of footballers who played in the the previous tournament in 2014 and the average age of the team is 28 - the highest ever for a Japanese World Cup squad. Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki are all over the age of 28 but the trio are well-versed with the European style of playing and they will play a huge role in determining their team’s fortune in Russia.

Squad: Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima, Masaaki Higashiguchi, Kosuke Nakamura

Defenders: Yuto Nagatomo, Tomoaki Makino, Wataru Endo, Maya Yoshida, Hiroki Sakai, Gotoku Sakai, Gen Shoji, Naomichi Ueda

Midfielders: Makoto Hasebe, Keisuke Honda, Takashi Inui, Shinji Kagawa, Hotaru Yamaguchi, Genki Haraguchi, Takashi Usami, Gaku Shibasaki, Ryota Oshima

Forwards: Shinji Okazaki, Yuya Osako, Yoshinori Muto

First Published: Jun 11, 2018 17:52 IST