Japan World Cup team guide: fixtures, kits, key player, plus probable line-up

first_img 3 3 Japan take part in their seventh World Cup this summer. talkSPORT.com take an in-depth look at the Group H nation.MANAGERJapan picked an odd time to sack their manager, just two months before the start of the World Cup. Vahid Halilhodzic led them to qualification but was dismissed abruptly in April with the tournament just two months away.New manager Akira Nishino was handed a stark reminder of the task he faces Russia as his one and only game in charge so far ended in a 2-0 defeat to Ghana on home soil.CAPTAINMakoto Hasebe is Japan’s long-standing skipper. In his glory days, he was a key player in Wolfsburg’s 2008/09 Bundesliga triumph.At the age of 34, he has already been to two World Cups, including South Africa 2010 where he captained the side to the last 16.KEY PLAYERMuch of Japan’s hope depends on whether Shinji Kagawa shows up. The technically-gifted playmaker has reignited his career back at Borussia Dortmund after a hugely disappointing spell at Old Trafford.He failed to shine at Brazil 2014 as a Manchester United player, but his fortunes have improved since then.On his day, he can mix it with the best in Europe.ONE TO WATCHLeicester’s Shinji Okazaki is one of the most underrated players in the Premier League and he could be the difference for Japan up front.Japan have a tough group and their preparations have been turbulent to say the least, but the striker has that all-important know-how and will be a nightmare for any defence to cope with.FIXTURESTuesday, June 19: COLOMBIA v Japan (Mordovia Arena, Saransk) – kick-off – 13:00Sunday, June 24: Japan v SENEGAL (Ekaterinburg Arena, Yekaterinburg) – kick-off – 16:00Thursday, June 28: Japan v POLAND (Volgograd Arena, Volgograd) – kick-off – 15:00*You can listen to EVERY 2018 World Cup match live on the talkSPORT networkKITScenter_img RECORD IN QUALIFYINGThe Asian qualifiers are notoriously easy, but Japan topped the B side of the draw nonetheless. With their place in Russia already sealed, they lost the final game to Saudi Arabia, allowing the Saudis to qualify alongside them.TOURNAMENT PREPARATIONSAdmittedly, sacking your manager for no apparent reason two months before a World Cup isn’t the best way to prepare. Especially given the difficulty of their group fixtures.As mentioned earlier, Japan’s send-off game in Yokohama ended in a 2-0 defeat to Ghana (who didn’t even qualify for Russia) and they lost their other warm-up game, against Switzerland, by the same scoreline.BASE CAMPFC Rubin Kazan first team training ground, Kazan.PROBABLE LINE-UPKawashima; Yoshida, Hasebe, Makino; Harguchi, Oshima, Yamaguchi, Nagatomo; Honda, Kagawa; OkazakitalkSPORT will be with listeners all day and all night at this year’s 2018 FIFA World Cup™ with over 800 hours of World Cup content and all 64 games live across the talkSPORT network.last_img