Having qualified for the last six straight finals prior to 2022, the Samurai Blue’s appearances on the biggest stage in football have followed a familiar pattern, as they have yo-yoed between exits at the group stage and defeat in the Round of 16.
At Russia 2018, they were beaten at that last-16 stage by eventual semifinalists Belgium.Four years on, they know they will have their work cut out to even make it that far, with Spain, Costa Rica and Germany their opponents in what has been tagged as the traditional ‘Group of Death’ this time around. the first coach from any of the competing nations to announce his final 26-man squad for the tournament.
Here we look at who will carry the Samurai Blue’s challenge in Qatar.
Final 26-man Japan World Cup squad
Moriyasu had until Friday, October 21 to submit an official preliminary list of up to 55 players to FIFA, from which he selected his final 26-man roster for Qatar, the deadline for which was Monday, November 14.
The Blue Samurai coach opted to go early, and did not make his preliminary squad public, instead cutting straight to his final 26 names, who were announced at a press conference on November 1.
That list was temporarily reduced to 25 players with Yuta Nakayama ruled out with injury, before Shuto Machino was named as his replacement.
The most notable absences at the time were Celtic pair Kyogo Furuhashi and Reo Hatate, although club teammate Daizen Maeda has made the cut.
Vissel Kobe forward Yuya Osako and Union Berlin midfielder Genki Haraguchi were also omissions, but Nagoya Grampus winger Yuki Soma has earned a surprise call.
Daichi Kamada and Takefusa Kubo add star quality to the squad, and will be tasked with providing the creativity to unlock tough Group E opposition in Qatar.
Experience comes in the form of captain Maya Yoshida and Hiroki Sakai, who will feature in their third straight World Cup, while 39-year-old goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima make a fourth trip to the finals.
Japan start their challenge in Qatar by facing Germany on November 23, before a clash with Costa Rica four days later. They end their group challenge against Spain on December 1.
Here’s a look at the players who made their final list:
|Goalkeeper||Eiji Kawashima||Strasbourg (FRA)||39||95|
|Goalkeeper||Shuichi Gonda||Shimizu S-Pulse (JPN)||33||33|
|Goalkeeper||Daniel Schmidt||Sint-Truiden (BEL)||30||11|
|Defender||Yuto Nagatomo||Tokyo (JPN)||36||137|
|Defender||Maya Yoshida||Schalke (GER)||34||121|
|Defender||Hiroki Sakai||Urawa Red Diamonds (JPN)||32||71|
|Defender||Takehiro Tomiyasu||Arsenal (ENG)||23||29|
|Defender||Miki Yamane||Kawasaki Frontale (JPN)||28||14|
|Defender||Shogo Taniguchi||Kawasaki Frontale (JPN)||31||13|
|Defender||Ko Itakura||Borussia Monchengladbach (GER)||25||12|
|Defender||Hiroki Ito||Stuttgart (GER)||23||5|
|Midfielder||Gaku Shibasaki||Leganes (SPA)||30||59|
|Midfielder||Wataru Endo||Stuttgart (GER)||29||43|
|Midfielder||Takumi Minamino||Monaco (FRA)||27||43|
|Midfielder||Junya Ito||Reims (FRA)||29||38|
|Midfielder||Ritsu Doan||Freiburg (GER)||24||28|
|Midfielder||Daichi Kamada||Eintracht Frankfurt (GER)||26||21|
|Midfielder||Takefusa Kubo||Real Sociedad (SPA)||21||19|
|Midfielder||Hidemasa Morita||Sporting (POR)||27||17|
|Midfielder||Ao Tanaka||Fortuna Dusseldorf (GER)||24||14|
|Midfielder||Kaoru Mitoma||Brighton (ENG)||25||9|
|Midfielder||Yuki Soma||Nagoya Grampus (JPN)||25||7|
|Forward||Takuma Asano||Bochum (GER)||27||36|
|Forward||Ayase Ueda||Club Brugge (BEL)||24||10|
|Forward||Daizen Maeda||Celtic (SCO)||25||8|
|Forward||Shuto Machino||Shonan Bellmare (JPN)||23||4|
WORLD CUP 2022 SELECTED SQUADS:
Australia | Argentina | Belgium | Brazil | Cameroon
Canada | Costa Rica | Croatia | Denmark | England
France | Germany | Ghana | Iran | Japan | Mexico
Netherlands | Poland | Portugal | Qatar | Senegal
Serbia | Spain | Switzerland | Uruguay | USA | Wales
Reo Hatate was always an outsider, but very surprised Kyogo Furuhashi hasn’t been selected in Japan’s squad for the World Cup.
No room in a 26-player squad?
Daizen Maeda Celtic’s sole Samurai Blue representative. pic.twitter.com/In8hzmRhLl
— Sacha Pisani (@Sachk0) November 1, 2022
Japan World Cup group
Group E shapes up to be arguably one of the toughest in Qatar, and Japan will have their work cut out if they are to make progress to the knockout rounds.
An opening clash with Germany is as tough a start as they could have asked for, while their group-stage challenge ends with an equally difficult looking fixture against 2010 winners Spain.
They will likely need to take at least something from one of those matches, and hope that they can win convincingly against Costa Rica, at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on November 27.
Japan Group E fixtures and match schedule
|Wed, Nov. 23||Germany vs. Japan||8 a.m.||Khalifa Int’l|
|Sun, Nov. 27||Japan vs. Costa Rica||5 a.m.||Ahmad Bin Ali|
|Thurs, Dec. 1||Spain vs. Japan||2 p.m.||Khalifa Int’l|
Can Japan replace players on World Cup roster?
Once the final 26-man roster is official, participating teams at the World Cup can only make changes before the first game of the tournament, and only in the case of extraordinary circumstances.
According to the official tournament rules, “a player listed on the final list may only be replaced in the event of serious injury or illness up until 24 hours before the start of his team’s first match.”
The team in question would need to submit a medical report to FIFA and if the world governing body determines “the injury or illness is sufficiently serious to prevent the player from taking part in the FIFA World Cup” then the replacement will be allowed.
The replacement player must come from the preliminary list of players submitted to FIFA in October.
In Japan’s case, they have already invoked this rule, after Machino was called up to replace Nakayama on November 8.