Monday Feb 6, 2023
Monday Feb 6, 2023

What’s next for Japan after exit on penalties at World Cup?


Nepalnews
2022 Dec 06, 17:08, Qatar
Japan's head coach Hajime Moriyasu bows after losing the penalty shootout of the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Japan and Croatia at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. (AP Photo)

Japan reached the round of 16 for the fourth time at a World Cup. It got knocked out in the round of 16 for the fourth time in a 3-1 loss to Croatia on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw in regulation and extra time.

EXPECTATION VS. PERFORMANCE

Coach Hajime Moriyasu said for months that the Japan team’s goal was to reach the quarterfinals for the first time. So by that standard, Japan under-performed.

However, 2-1 victories over former World Cup champions Spain and Germany in the group stage showed Japan has improved enough to compete with top soccer nations.

Moriyasu talked of still needing to improve, but the coach said his players “can look eye-to-eye with anyone now.”

WHO’S OUT?

Fullback Yuto Nagatomo, 36, and goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, 39, have each been on four World Cup squads and certainly will not return. Nagatomo played in all four games, but Kawashima never left the bench. Instead he served as a veteran mentor to the young team.

Captain and defender Maya Yoshida was in his third World Cup and, at 34, most likely his last.

Women pray as they watch on a live stream of the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Croatia and Japan being played in Doha, Qatar, during a public viewing event in Tokyo, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. (AP Photo)
Women pray as they watch on a live stream of the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Croatia and Japan being played in Doha, Qatar, during a public viewing event in Tokyo, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. (AP Photo)

WHO’S NEXT?

Three names come immediately to mind.

Midfielder Ritsu Doan, who plays at German club SC Freiburg, scored two goals and will certainly be a backbone of future teams. Another is midfielder Kaoru Mitoma, who is having at stellar season at Brighton & Hove Albion in England’s Premier League.

Mitoma was one of three Japanese players who missed their penalty kick in the shootout loss to Croatia.

The third is another midfielder, Takefusa Kubo, a 21-year-old at Spanish club Real Sociedad.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Japan has qualified for the Asian Cup, a tournament it has won four times. The event, scheduled for January 2024, was moved to Qatar after China withdrew, citing COVID-19.

READ ALSO:

What’s next Japan Penalties World Cup Croatia Hajime Moriyasu
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