Monday, December 6, 2021

Will Japan Make It To The World Cup Finals?

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The start of the World Cup in Qatar is a little over 12 months away. Teams are already looking ahead to the competition. The majority of the places for European teams have already been secured. Germany, England and France are among the nations to have topped their groups and qualified.

Conversely, the qualification campaign for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is heating up. The third round has reached a pivotal stage for those nations that are still involved.

History at the World Cup

Japan has enjoyed a number of excellent World Cup showings in their history. They didn’t enter for the first two World Cups in 1930 and 1934. Following that, they failed to qualify for every renewal of the tournament between 1954 and 1994. However, the day that all fans would have been hoping for finally came in 1998, as Japan played their first ever match at the World Cup finals. It was to be a disappointing showing by the nation on that occasion, as they failed to register a single win.

Japanese interest in the sport reached new heights in 2002. This was because the prestigious event was co-hosted by the country alongside South Korea. It was during this competition that Japan managed to make it through the group stages for the first time. They won two of their four games before being knocked out in the round of 16.

Japan has managed to reach this stage of the competition in two of the previous three World Cups. That also includes the most recent tournament in Russia in 2018. Throughout their World Cup history, Japan have played 21 games in the World Cup, and have picked up five victories.

Current Position In Qualification

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Qualification for the World Cup in the AFC region is difficult. This is because the majority of nations have to make it through at least three stages. Japan entered in the second round and they won all eight games that they played in Group F. It was an impressive record. Furthermore, they scored a total of 46 goals and conceded on just two occasions.

However, the real competition gets underway in the third round, as the remaining 12 teams in contention are drawn into two groups. Japan were drawn in the more difficult Group B, alongside the likes of Saudi Arabia and Australia. At present, they are sitting second in that group with 12 points. They are four points behind Saudi Arabia, and just one point ahead of Australia with four games of qualification to go.

Will They Qualify?

The big question that all Japanese fans will be asking is whether they will be able to book their tickets to Qatar. They aren’t mathematically assured of a place in Qatar at present. This is because they still need to pick up more points than Australia in the remaining four games. However, they are favourites with the leading Japanese sportsbooks to reach the World Cup. The two sides still have to play each other one more time in March. Japan won the previous meeting between the two. Japan also still has to play Saudi Arabia for the second time. They will be looking for revenge after losing away from home against the current group leaders 1-0 in October.

Realistically, Japan should have enough quality to get out of the group. The top two will be the main aim for the national team. However, third is the very lowest place that they will finish. That finish will set up a playoff fixture in the fourth round against the team that finishes third in Group A. At present, that would mean a match against the UAE, who have picked up just one win from six games. The fourth round would be a nervy occasion. However, Japan should have more than enough class to make it through if the very worst scenario plays out.

Hopes at the World Cup in Qatar

After qualification has been achieved, the sights will quickly be set on Qatar next year. However, that will be much tougher as they come up against some of the world’s best. They have shown on a number of occasions at previous World Cups that they can hold their own in that competition. It would seem that a showing in the first knockout round would be the very best that they could manage in 2022.

Reaching the round of 16 for a second straight World Cup would highlight clear progression for the Japanese national team. Meanwhile, it would give the nation a solid foundation to build on ahead of the 2026 World Cup in North America.

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Avatar of Rahul Roy
Rahul Roy
I am a computer guy by profession and a sports fanatic by choice.


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