Japan will face former champions Spain and Germany as well as Costa Rica or New Zealand at this year’s World Cup in Qatar after being included in Group E in the tournament draw Friday.
Japan, 23rd in the latest FIFA rankings, qualified for the seventh consecutive time and were among the eight teams in Pot 3.
The screen shows Japan drawn in Group E during the final draw for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at the Doha Exhibition Center on April 1, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (Getty/Kyodo)
The 2022 World Cup, the final edition with 32 teams, is set to start on November 21 with Japan opening their campaign against Germany two days later.
After facing the winners of 2014, currently ranked 12th, Japan will face the team that will emerge from the intercontinental playoffs in June between Costa Rica, 31st, and New Zealand, who occupy a place outside the top 100, on 27th. November.
Spain, winner of the 2010 tournament and seventh nation, will wait until December 1st.
It’s the toughest World Cup draw to date for Samurai Blue, who made their tournament debut in 1998 and have alternated between the group stage and last 16 outings. They have reached the knockout stage more than any other team in Asia.
“I feel joy to be able to play against countries that have already won the tournament in Spain and Germany,” said Japanese coach Hajime Moriyasu, who revealed he felt his team would end up in the group with the two European giants as the draw progressed. .
“We are aiming to reach the last eight, but we can only get there if we beat the strongest nations in the world. We will have extensive preparation to think about how we can get there.”
Japan men’s soccer coach Hajime Moriyasu speaks in the mixed zone after the final draw for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at the Doha Exhibition Center on April 1, 2022 in Doha, Qatar. (FIFA/Getty/Kyodo)
If Japan reach the round of 16, they will face Belgium, Canada, Morocco or Croatia from Group F.
Japan stumbled from two defeats in three opening matches in their final Asian qualifying group, losing to Oman at home and away to Saudi Arabia, but won the next six to clinch a place in Qatar.
Four-time champions Germany, the nation with the second-most World Cup titles alongside unqualified Italy in 2022 and only behind Brazil’s five, suffered a shock group stage exit there is four years old.
But they were the first nation to qualify for the tournament in Qatar after making their fortune under former Bayern Munich manager Hansi Flick, appointed to take charge of his country following the team’s loss to England in round of 16 at the European Championships last summer. .
Spain, who won the title in 2010 thanks to current Vissel Kobe midfielder Andres Iniesta, winner of extra time in the final, have struggled at the last two World Cups but are also progressing under management. of former Barcelona coach Luis Enrique.
They reached the semi-finals of the European Championships last summer and also finished runners-up in the UEFA Nations League. Japan have long modeled their passing game on the skilful Spaniard.
German and Spanish players will see familiar faces in the Japanese squad with a number of Samurai Blue squad members plying their trade for clubs in both countries.
While Enrique admitted to Kyodo News that he only really knows Germany from Group E teams after playing them before, Flick praised Japanese players who play in the German Bundesliga.
Former Germany striker Oliver Bierhoff, currently the national team manager, spoke about Stuttgart defensive midfielder Wataru Endo, while former Spain right-back Michel Salgado said Takefusa Kubo, on loan to Mallorca from Real Madrid can make the difference.
Manager Moriyasu, meanwhile, will also be set to exorcise his national team which is playing the demons of the day in Doha. The 53-year-old former midfielder was part of the squad that suffered a last-minute draw against Iraq in 1993 in the Qatari capital to miss the 1994 final in the United States.
“I want to achieve our goals here in Doha, this time as a manager, and make it the ‘Joy of Doha’,” Moriyasu said, recalling the match that became known in Japan as the ‘Agony of Doha. “.
The 2026 World Cup, which will be co-hosted by Canada, Mexico and the United States, will be expanded to 48 nations.
The final draw for the FIFA World Cup football tournament in Qatar takes place on April 1, 2022 in Doha. (Kyōdo) == Kyōdo