By Satuk Bugra Kutlugun
ANKARA (AA) – Japan will play in its sixth consecutive World Cup Finals when they take on Poland, Colombia and Senegal in Group H.
The Asian powerhouse country has topped both their group stages to clinch their ticket to Russia 2018. They collected 20 points in 10 matches against Saudi Arabia, Australia, Iraq, UAE and Thailand in the final group stage.
Japan has only seven players in their squad playing in the J1 League, the rest of the squad consists of players from other international leagues, mostly from Europe.
In the left back, Galatasaray's Yuto Nagatomo will be one of the players to watch, while Pachuca's Keisuke Honda, Leicester City's Shinji Okazaki and Yoshinori Muto of Mainz are expected to meet Japan's goal expectations.
In their previous five appearances, (1998,2002,2006,2010,2014), Japan has managed to advance to Round 16 only twice. One of the Round 16 performances came in 2002, when they co-hosted the tournament along with South Korea. They were eliminated in the group stage in Brazil 2014.
Japan's confirmed 23-men squad:
Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima (Metz), Masaaki Higashiguchi (Gamba Osaka), Kosuke Nakamura (Kashiwa Reysol).
Defenders: Yuto Nagatomo (Galatasaray), Tomoaki Makino, Wataru Endo (Urawa Red Diamonds), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Hiroki Sakai (Marsilya) Gotoku Sakai (Hamburg), Gen Shoji (Kashima Antlers), Naomichi Ueda (Kashima Antlers).
Midfielders: Makoto Hasebe (Eintracht Frankfurt), Keisuke Honda (Pachuca), Takashi Inui (Eibar), Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund), Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka), Genki Haraguchi, Takashi Usami (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Gaku Shibasaki (Getafe), Ryota Oshima (Kawasaki Frontale).
Forwards: Shinji Okazaki (Leicester City), Yuya Osako (Werder Bremen), Yoshinori Muto (Mainz).
Manager: Akira Nishino.