Japan’s national football team is a modern-day success story, having qualified for each World Cup since 1998. However, having never been able to progress past the Round of 16 stage, they will be looking to go one step further at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
As is typical of their World Cup qualification route, Japan breezed through the second group stage with a goal difference of +44 having played just eight games. In the tougher third stage, they finished in the second automatic spot behind Saudi Arabia to book their place in the Finals.
Without any major stars to call upon, the squad rely on their high work-rate and team mentality to make life very difficult for opponents. This doesn’t mean the team lacks talent by any means. One player to look out for is Real Madrid’s Takefusa Kubo, who has played nearly 100 La Liga games in numerous loan spells at the age of just 21.
Hajime Moriyasu is the manager of Japan having been the assistant at their last World Cup in Russia 2018. He brings plenty of experience with the national set up, coaching various youth sides during his managerial career as well as looking after the Under-23 Olympic side.
53-year-old Moriyasu spent the majority of his playing career at Sanfrecce Hiroshima in his native Japan. He also earned 35 caps for the national team between 1992 and 1996.
Vastly experienced defender Maya Yoshida is the captain of the 2022 Japanese national side. He was the obvious choice for the role back in 2017, having captained club side Southampton and featuring regularly against top-level strikers in the English Premier League.
Yoshida began his career at Nagoya Grampus in the J-League before moving onto VVV-Venlo in the Netherlands. Southampton swooped for the consistent centre-back in 2012, where he spent eight seasons before heading to first Sampdoria and now Schalke.
Yoshida has been a regular fixture in the Japan team since 2011, putting in some solid displays whilst making over 100 senior appearances. He will be 34 by the time the Finals in Qatar begin, but there’s seemingly no signs of him slowing down any time soon.
On paper, Japan have a pretty tough looking group to try and navigate through. First up is four times winners Germany, before a must-win clash against Costa Rica, followed by their final game against Spain.
Minimino came to the attention of English fans having joined Liverpool in 2019, whilst also spending time on loan at Southampton. Although chances were limited, he’d often play in a floating ‘number 10’ position at club level. For Japan, he’s often used in a wide attacking berth depending on the formation played.
In their Round of 16 tie vs Belgium, Japan were seconds away from taking the game to extra-time. Having led 2-0 after 52 minutes, Belgium somehow clawed their way back to 2-2 before a 94th minute Nacer Chadli goal broke Japanese hearts.