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Japan - World Cup 2018

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Playing in an evenly matched group is probably the best thing that could have happened to Japan for the Russia 2018 World Cup.

Japan is facing an arguably weaker field than they’re used to; but, even while they won their qualifying group, it was only by a thin margin. Keisuke Honda, a fixture on the Japanese national team for years, has been in and out of the roster and there are questions regarding whether if he fits into manager Vahid Halilhodžić's defend-and-counter system.

Still, with a newly revamped and stingy defense, Japan has a fighting chance at getting some wins in 2018. It will not be easy, however. Overall, Japan is ranked 55th in the FIFA rankings, ahead of only Russia and Saudi Arabia in the entire 2018 field of World Cup Teams.

Japan’s World Cup History

Having qualified for the last six consecutive World Cup Tournaments, in which they advanced to the second round in both 2002 and 2010, Japan is next to South Korea as the best soccer nations in their region.

Japan has also won a record four Asian Cups, in 1992, 2000, 2004 and 2011. They were also runners-up in the Confederations cup in 2001, where they lost 1-0 to France in the final.

Starting in 2010 Japan began increasing their profile as a soccer nation. That year they made it to a shootout in the Round of 16 vs Paraguay, and then went on to win the Asian Cup in 2011 and participated in the Confederations Cup in 2013.

Japan’s Road To The 2018 World Cup

In qualifying for the 2018 cup, Japan lost only two matches and locked up the top spot, then went on to a historic 1-0 win over France in a pre-world cup friendly match.

Since then their success has been limited as they lost the last Asian Cup and did not make it out of the group stage of the 2014 World Cup.

How Does The Japan World Cup 2018 Squad Stack Up?

Under Halilhodžić’s management, Japan has changed the look of its team drastically, incorporating a number of stars from its domestic league.

Playing is Maya Yoshida of Southampton as the star player, supported by Yosuke Ideguchi of Cultural Leonesa, but the rest of the team are mostly J-league players. Honda was included in recent friendly matches against Ukraine and Mali, but it is still not clear if he will be on the roster in Russia.

A slew of injuries caused Japan to field a weaker team for a recent couple of friendly matches, so things are still in flux as far as what will happen in Russia. Japan has three more friendly matches to figure things out, as they play Ghana, Switzerland, and Paraguay before taking on Colombia in game one of the World Cup.

Japan Odds To Win World Cup 2018

Again, Japan is capable of making it out of this group, but they are a long shot and achieving success in the knockout stage is unlikely.

They should be competitive in all three games though, as they are only slight underdogs to the other teams in the group. The real question is what future lies ahead in 2022 and beyond for this up and coming Asian soccer powerhouse.

Japan World Cup 2018

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