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Toothless Japan could struggle to clear first round hurdle

| 10.06.2010

Although they troubled England in their recent friendly 2-1 loss, Japan look unlikely to cause much discomfort for their Group E rivals.

Marcus Tulio Tanaka’s strike against England was Japan’s only goal in their last four matches, and such limp attacking statistics will encourage their first round opponents, Holland, Cameroon and Denmark.

They are 5/2 to score one goal or less in South Africa, and their adventure to the round of 16 during their home World Cup in 2002 is by now little but a distant memory.

Japan are an aesthetically pleasing team who like to keep possession with a patient, short passing game, though their neat build-up play is seldom rewarded with a goal.

Midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura is the top scorer in the current squad, with 24 goals from his 97 caps, and the former Celtic set-piece specialist is temptingly priced at 7/1 to be Japan’s leading scorer at the World Cup.

Beyond Nakamura’s free-kicks, Japan may struggle to find the net. Shinji Okazaki, who has 16 goals in 28 international appearances, is the striker with the best scoring record, and he is 7/2 favourite to be Japan’s top scorer.

Most of Okazaki’s goals, however, have come against teams such as Bahrain and Hong Kong, and the Shimizu S-Pulse forward may struggle to score against Japan’s tougher Group E opponents.

Takeshi Okada’s side are a convincing 1/3 to be eliminated at the group stage.

Do you think Japan can spring a surprise? They are 10/3 to be eliminated in the round of 16. See the full Japan Specials market.

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Author

Robbie Morris

Robbie studied sports journalism at the University of Gloucestershire, an establishment chosen for its proximity to Cheltenham racecourse, where he was a season ticket holder. Upon graduation, Robbie was a contributor to GolfPunk, a national magazine aimed at ridding golf of its traditionalist image, before joining the news.ladbrokes team.