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Nickname: Samurai Blue
Number of World Cup appearances: 3
Best World Cup finish: Second round (2002)
The Japanese are never going to blow you away with their footballing skills, but to that same point they are never a side to take lightly. Naturally, by virtue of playing in Asia, this side isn’t going to get a whole lot of credit, and perhaps rightfully so with comparisons to the rest of the major elite. But still, Japan has ability and they will not be the tournament’s minnow.
And to Japan’s credit as an Asian power, this is their fourth consecutive World Cup appearance, and throughout the qualifying process the Samurai Blue dominated. In 2002 Japan was able to advance beyond the group stage when they co-hosted the tournament with South Korea. However, four years ago in Germany was not a favorable result. They’ll look to draw on their success from that Round of 16 appearance and fight to be a squad worthy of advancing in Group E.
2010 Japan World Cup Odds
Japan is currently listed at 300/1 futures odds to win the World Cup.
They are 12/1 to win Group E.
Key Player To Watch
There isn’t much to debate with regards to Japan’s fiercest weapon on the pitch. Midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura has played in Europe for a handful of years and is his country’s top football export and is most known for his spectacular free kicks where he creatively places the ball in corners of the net that cannot be reached by opposing goalkeepers.
Best Team Asset
Knowing full well how poorly the Japanese played in Germany in 2006, a lot more is expected and desired from both players and supporters alike. In 1998 and 2006 they were left in the group stage but if a trend is developing where they advance every other World Cup, then 2010 might be another surprise run for Japan.
Key Team Weakness
Producing in Asia is not like producing in the World Cup, and that seems to be the biggest factor holding Japan back. They do not have enough players getting experience in the top club leagues around the world, as most make their living in the J-League (Japan’s top domestic club league). And you can also draw on Japan’s lack of consistent play against the best internationally. Yes, occasionally Japan gets friendly matches from those in Europe, South American or Africa, but sporadic isn’t good enough.
Japan World Cup Predictions
When the dust settles there is too much talent from the remaining three Group E sides. Netherlands will easily handle Japan and that alone will leave them hoping for two wins against Denmark and Cameroon, and that just isn’t going to happen. Perhaps advancement would be more likely if they were drawn into Group A, the weakest in my opinion, but not among this four.
Key First Round Match (best betting opportunity)
Like some of the more unproven teams, I would take a wait-and-see approach with Japan. Their first match against Cameroon is too early to back them and their second match against Holland is a daunting task. But if the Japanese find themselves 0-2 going into their finale against Denmark on June 24 with nothing but pride on the line, there might be a situation to take a flyer on the Asian football nation.
Japan World Cup Group Play Schedule
v. Cameroon, June 14, 2010 – 10 a.m. ET at Free State (Mangaung/Bloemfontein)
v. Netherlands, June 19, 2010 – 10 a.m. ET at Durban (Durban)
v. Denmark, June 24, 2010 – 2:30 p.m. ET at Royal Bafokeng (Rustenburg)
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