Japan have been carving out a slow yet steady standing for themselves among the international scene in recent years, with the hope of further progressing their ongoing reputation at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
This summer will be Japan’s sixth consecutive appearance at a World Cup competition. With such an impressive stat in mind, just how far can Japanese football fans expect to dream once the 2018 World Cup finally dawns upon us?
Japan have only won four out of their seventeen previous World Cup fixtures. Although this serves to cast Vahid Halilhodzic’s team in a fairly unpromising light, maybe some renewed fortunes could finally be on the cards for this determined Japanese outfit.
Whilst ultimate qualification from Group H seems somewhat unattainable for Japan this summer, they could potentially prove a worthwhile addition to the tournament, operating with thousands of likeminded fans cheering them on at every available turn. Then again, Japan could also finish the 2018 World Cup without a single point to their name.
The likes of Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa represent relatively famous names within Halilhodzic’s first-team ranks, yet perhaps Leicester City’s Shinji Okazaki is the one promising Japanese player who could really come to the forefront.
Okazaki may not represent the most technically talented or physically gifted striker we have seen operating upon the international stage, but what the frontman lacks in both pace and skill, he more than makes up for via his intelligent movement inside the final third.
With the likes of Radamel Falcao, Robert Lewandowski and Sadio Mane all to contend with among Group H this summer, Okazaki and co. will certainly find themselves operating with the odds stacked against them in Russia.
Yet this is a player who clearly knows what it takes to find the back of the net, and if the plucky 31-year-old can continue to cause havoc among defensive back-lines this summer, perhaps Japan could ultimately go on to achieve far more than most are currently predicting.
Colombia – Don’t expect the Japanese to take much away from this fixture, particularly if the previous World Cup face-off between these two nations back in 2014 is to prove anything to go by. Colombia remain the most likely favourites to succeed within Group H after all.
Senegal – Japan could potentially cause an upset in this fixture, but once again, it seems they will inevitably lack enough genuine quality to get the job done in convincing style. Despite Japan’s notorious determination and work ethic, those pacey Senegalese wide-men are likely to cause problems in Group H this summer.
Poland – Vahid Halilhodzic’s side are likely to experience far more time and options on the ball against Poland, than in their previous two group-stage encounters. Yet as Poland seemingly play host to one of the very best strikers in the whole of world football right about now, Japan’s hopes of keeping a clean sheet and eventually winning this match seem wholly improbable.
Whilst Japan are likely to find themselves operating in Russia with plenty of determination and character about their first choice starting XI, Halilhodzic’s side could genuinely finish rock bottom of Group H with everything fairly taken into account, despite their best efforts.
World Cup betting tips fail to shine much positive light on Japan’s overall chances of progressing towards the latter stages of the competition, and with a lack of newfound emerging talent currently present within their first-team ranks this summer, it seems Japan are unlikely to fulfil even their most modest expectations at the 2018 World Cup.