Toothless Japan could struggle to clear first round hurdle
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.
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.