Odds on Japan to win Group C suggest plenty of work to be done by Honda & Kagawa

Japan were the first nation to qualify for the 2014 World Cup having eased through their Asian group, but the odds on Japan to win World Cup Group C at 5/1 suggest that things will not be easy in Brazil.

Manager: Alberto Zaccheroni
World Cup best:
Round of 16 (2002)
How they qualified:
First placed finish in Asian Qualifying Group B

13 points from their first five games whilst others slipped up against each other effectively had them qualified before their 1-1 draw with Australia back in June last year.

The level of opponents will be much harder come Brazil though and they finished bottom of their Confederations Cup group in 2013.

Star player: Keisuke Honda (AC Milan)

Keisuke Honda finally completed his move to one of Europe’s giant clubs in January when AC Milan signed the midfielder.

Since Clarence Seedorf’s appointment he has been in and out of the side, although for Japan he is their key man.

The way he and Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa link up is almost telepathic and the pair are undoubtedly top class midfielders.

One to watch: Shinji Okazaki (Mainz)

After struggling at Stuttgart, their Bundesliga rivals Mainz took a punt on the forward and he has enjoyed an amazing 2013/14 campaign.

Mainz ran some of Germany’s elite close for a Champions League spot, with the striker scoring more this season than he had in the previous three at Stuttgart.

Strengths

The levels of technique in the Japanese play has increased significantly since they broke onto the scene in 1998.

The lies of Honda and Kagawa in midfield cut a defensively solid Italy open almost at ease in the Confederations Cup loss and the pair will need to be at their best in Brazil.

Weaknesses

At times in the Confederations Cup Japan were excellent, however lost all three matches, conceding nine goals in the process.

Defensively there are huge question marks over them, especially up against the likes of Radamel Falcao, Wilfried Bony and Konstantinos Mitroglou.

How far can they go?

Japan are confident they can progress from Group C and their opener against Ivory Coast will go a long way to determining their fate.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima, Shusaku Nishikawa, Shuichi Gonda

Defenders: Masahiko Inoha, Yasuyuki Konno, Yuto Nagatomo, Masato Morishige, Atsuto Uchida, Maya Yoshida, Hiroki Sakai, Gotoku Sakai

Midfielders: Yasuhito Endo, Makoto Hasebe, Toshihiro Aoyama, Hotaru Yamaguchi

Forwards: Keisuke Honda, Yoshito Okubo, Shinji Okazaki, Shinji Kagawa, Hiroshi Kiyotake, Yoichiro Kakitani, Manabu Saito, Yuya Osako

Group C
Colombia
Greece
Ivory Coast
Japan

Fixtures

Sunday 15th June: Ivory Coast vs. Japan 02:00
Thursday 19th June: Japan vs. Greece 23:00
Tuesday 24th June: Japan vs. Colombia 21:00

Lewis Jones has over 5 years experience in web publishing, having worked at a number of well known UK facing sports websites. He can be reached at Google+ for more information.

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