COACH – Alberto Zaccheroni
BEST SHOWING – 2nd Round 2002, 2010
QUALIFICATION – Winner of AFC Final Stage Group B
TOURNAMENT ODDS – 200/1 (BetVictor)
June 15th – Ivory Coast (0200 BST, Recife, ITV)
June 19th – Greece (2300 BST, Natal, BBC)
June 24th – Colombia (2100 BST, Cuiaba, BBC)


Button Colombia Button Ivory Coast Button Greece


Aside from the hosts, Japan were the first nation to secure their place in Brazil although there was the odd hiccup on the way, with defeats to Jordan and a surprise home loss to Uzbekistan amongst them. Friendlies have been a mixed bag in recent years too. An historic win in France, a victory in Belgium and a draw against Holland were countered with losses to Belarus and Serbia as Zaccheroni has opted for a tough opposition approach to friendlies.

One thing Zaccheroni has done in his time with the Samurai Blue is make his men well drilled and organised. Add that to having plenty of players who ply their trade in Europe’s top leagues and being able to hold their own against the world’s best technically, Japan go into Brazil with a quiet optimism.

I expect them to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Standard Liege’s Eiji Kawashima should don the goalkeeping gloves.

Inter’s Yuto Nagatomo on the left and Schalke’s Atsuto Uchida on the opposite flank make for a good pair of full backs and will bomb forward if given the opportunity to do so, while Yasuyuki Konno and Maya Yoshida should pair up at the back.

Makoto Hasebe will look to dictate the tempo in a deep lying midfield role with the veteran Yasuhito Endo alongside him. Just in front of those two should be the trio of Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and Hiroshi Kiyotake.

Shinji Okazaki could play the lone striker role.

Japan like to play it through the middle with quick passing, movement and pace and also like to press the opposition at every opportunity. They love to keep possession and in Honda and Kagawa have two players who on their day can carve open opposition defences.

They do have their weaknesses though. A lack of physicality and defending set pieces are notable Achilles’ heels for the Samurai Blue and whilst their first XI is very good, injuries and suspensions weaken the side significantly.


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05 WORLD CUP HONDAAlthough he hasn’t really shone for the Rossoneri as of yet since joining from CSKA Moscow in the January transfer window, the former VVV-Venlo man has shone for his country for a long time.

He’ll play in the hole and Japan will look to him as the fulcrum of their attacking play. He can slow the game down, speed it up but his vision, skill and a handy partnership with Shinji Kagawa will prove a handful for other teams to contain.

Regarded by some as Asia’s finest player, the World Cup is the stage to prove it.



Colombia are the favourites to advance from this group but the question is who goes through with them? I can argue a case for all three teams but if Japan can adapt to the conditions and impose their high tempo, high energy game on the others it’ll be tough to beat them.

Japan have been accused of being more style than substance, that they have the technical ability, they have the players to create chances but they just don’t take them. The 2010 tournament was a prime example. Japan carved open more than enough chances to beat Paraguay in the knockout stages but didn’t take them and lost on penalties.

To succeed in football you have to be ruthless, punish other teams for their mistakes and take your chances when they come along. Zaccheroni will drill this into his players and should they find that ruthless edge, Japan could surprise a few people in this tournament.

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Japan are my pick to go through with Colombia and may even be an outside bet to reach the quarter finals. Any further than that would be a shock though.

world cup Brasil emblem 01

Danji Kagawa (D-Good)
Owls Alive
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive or @DGood83

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