For the primary time in a protracted whereas, Japan head to a FIFA World Cup arguably with none confirmed A-grade expertise with the uncanny means to affect sport on their very own.
Lately, their performances on soccer’s greatest stage have been fuelled by the likes of Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and even Shinji Okazaki. Going additional again, there have been standouts like Shunsuke Nakamura, Yasuhito Endo and Shinji Ono.
Even when the Samurai Blue made their World Cup debut again in 1998, it proved to be the stage for a sure Hidetoshi Nakata to come back to the fore and finally earn a transfer to Europe.
– 2022 World Cup: All squad lists for Qatar
– World Cup group previews: Group E – Spain, Costa Rica, Germany, Japan
This yr, as they brace for robust checks at Qatar 2022 in opposition to Spain and Germany — in addition to a less-daunting however equally-tricky tie with Costa Rica — it’s troublesome to focus on one particular person who might be integral to their fortunes.
To have a look at it negatively could be to easily say that this Samurai Blue group is bereft of star gamers.
However that’s not to say there is no such thing as a real high quality at coach Hajime Moriyasu’s disposal.
It’s in spite of everything a group sport. And with no clear dangerman for opposition groups to channel their consideration on, the Japanese might even have a component of unpredictability they didn’t possess in earlier years.
So in lieu of 1 single X-factor participant, who’re the less-recognisable names that would mix to gas Japan’s quest to succeed in the Spherical of 16?
The obvious candidate is former Liverpool attacker Takumi Minamino, who has succeeded Kagawa in each the No. 10 jersey and the playmaker-in-chief duties.
Minamino’s resume is spectacular sufficient but he has not loved one of the best of occasions lately, and his kind has hardly picked up since leaving Liverpool for Monaco searching for higher first-team alternatives.
As an alternative, a similarly-hyped prospect that appears likelier to star for the Samurai Blue in Qatar is Takefusa Kubo.
Nonetheless solely 21, Kubo can already depend each Barcelona and Actual Madrid amongst his former golf equipment and is now discovering his ft in LaLiga since transferring to Actual Sociedad on a everlasting deal in the beginning of this season.
One other man that has discovered kind within the lead-up to the World Cup is Kaoru Mitoma, who might kind a potent double act with Kubo down each wings.
Having needed to bide his time for a shot within the Brighton lineup, the silky-skilled attacker’s closing three matches earlier than the World Cup break have been all begins — the place he contributed a formidable two targets and an help.
Barely additional again, Wataru Endo and Hidemasa Morita — each based mostly in Europe with Stuttgart and Sporting CP respectively — not often hog the headlines however are all the time assured to get the job finished in holding midfield.
In defence, captain Maya Yoshida stays an influential presence however his long-term successor has already emerged within the man he’ll line up alongside — Arsenal man Takehiro Tomiyasu.
But, maybe the one man who might actually resolve how far Japan get on the World Cup is Eintracht Frankfurt‘s Daichi Kamada.
A revelation to this point this time period, Kamada has racked up 12 targets in 22 matches taking part in for a group that’s at present fourth within the Bundesliga and thru to the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League. And he performs in midfield.
Considerably of a late bloomer, Kamada was hardly touted as a subsequent huge factor when he got here by at Sagan Tosu and, even after being signed by Frankfurt in 2017, he nonetheless needed to serve his apprenticeship on mortgage in Belgium with Sint-Truiden.
Nonetheless, he finally earned his likelihood. Ten targets in 48 video games within the 2019-20 season — his first yr again from that mortgage spell. 9 targets in 46 appearances final time period, together with 5 in Frankfurt’s UEFA Europa League-winning marketing campaign.
To the place he’s now, a real rising star of the Bundesliga, even when it has come an enormous later than standard on the age of 26.
There are others with lots extra to supply the Samurai Blue.
The veterans Hiroki Sakai and Yuto Nagatomo that may supply stability within the fullback positions. Livewires Ritsu Doan, Junya Ito and Ao Tanaka, who might all present a second of magic. Even one-time Arsenal prospect Takuma Asano, who has in all probability not kicked on as some would have anticipated in his membership profession however has a behavior of coming good for his nationwide group.
None of those gamers might be talked about as real A-listers in world soccer, but it surely is not going to trouble them nor Moriyasu.
Collectively, they might make for a top-quality group.
And in the event that they one way or the other overcome both Germany or Spain and even squeeze their manner into the Spherical of 16 at this World Cup, there’s a excessive likelihood just a few of the Samurai Blue’s new era might be considered stars by the point the event is over.