Four players that need to step up for Japan to get through Group H

Four players that need to step up for Japan to get through Group H

Japan have never progressed further than the round of 16 in the five World Cups they have attended. If the squad is to change that then these players must step up to the plate this summer...

Dominic Scott-Bone

With the World Cup nearing, our look at the tournament moves to Japan, with a special focus on who will be most important for the Asian side's bid to get through their group.

Shinji Kagawa

Borussia Dortmund's midfield maestro failed to showcase his skill set on the biggest stage in both the South African and Brazilian World Cups.

But could this year finally be his time to shine on centre stage?

There is no doubting the Japanese international's talent, but varying injuries have taken him out of action for large parts of his career.

Towards the latter stages of BVB's season he suffered a recurring malleolar injury, and since making a return to fitness was not used off of the bench in the final three Bundesliga fixtures of the 2017/18 campaign.

First team minutes of late therefore have been few and far between, but Kagawa will need to use all his experience and creativity for the Blue Samurai to earn points in a tough group consisting of Colombia, Poland and Senegal.

Keisuke Honda

It was Honda who shone in both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.

A speculative long-range free-kick versus Denmark in South Africa helped the nation advance to the knock-out stages.

The Blue Samurai though lost to Paraguay on penalties as they failed to once again win in a knock-out round in the World Cup.

Honda also scored in Brazil against Ivory Coast, however this was cancelled out by goals from Wilfried Bony and Gervinho.

The Pachuca midifelder has been Japan's 'shining light' for the past decade and the squad will be looking towards him for more moments of magic.

Takashi Inui

Not many may have heard of the recently transferred winger, but he sure has potential to offer Japan another element in attack.

Inui signed for Real Betis earlier this month after being part of an Eibar side that placed 9th in La Liga.

The ex-Eibar man has been impressive in the league this season and is not afraid to run at defenders with the ball.

Previously Japan have lacked pace and intent and this is what Inui should offer this summer, added onto the ability to play with both feet.

Shinji Okazaki

The Leicester City striker had been left out of ex-Japan boss, Vahid Halilhodžić's squad leading up to the World Cup as he focused on bringing youth through the national team's ranks.

Blue Samurai's new manager, Akira Nishino, however has brought Okazaki back into the fold opting for experience over youth with the squad averaging an age of 28, the oldest Japan have ever taken to a World Cup.

The 2015/16 Premier League champion is Japan’s highest active goalscorer with 50 goals from his 112 appearances and will look to add to this in Russia.

Although the 32-year-old has been struggling with an ankle injury having missed the final five games of the Foxes season, his work-rate alone should cement him a starting place.


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