Talking Points: Can Japan make it past the Round of 16?
Written by: Neelav Chakravarti
They may have lost but the Blue Samurai became the only Asian team to qualify for the Round of 16.
With skipper Robert Lewandowski almost invisible, Poland finally won their first match in Russia via a Jan Bednarek header from a set-piece. But, the Asian giants still managed to finish second in Group H, with Senegal losing to table-toppers Colombia.
In this article, we are going to discuss the five talking points observed in this FIFA World Cup 2018 Group H fixture.
5. Lewandowski has underperformed in Russia
The Polish skipper was expected to carry his promising national team at least till the Round of 16. But, he has been pretty disappointing during this tournament. There doesn't seem to be any chemistry between him and his midfielders. It's not like they haven't created chances for him; it's just that he has missed them.
The Bundesliga scorcher was expected to light up this tournament with goals, but he been a shadow of his club performances.
4. Japan were over-confident
The Asian side have looked confident and interesting to watch in their previous two matches. Unlike their Asian counterparts, the Japanese team looked exciting too.
The likes of Shinji Kagawa and Takashi Inui have looked good when on the ball, with super-sub Keisuke Honda being a game-changer. But, the confidence led them to almost being knocked out, after star players like Kagawa and Inui were handed starts.
3. Poland improved in the second half
The Polish midfield were pretty sloppy in the first half. Meanwhile, their Japanese counterparts were magnificent in the middle of the park. But, after the interval, the Blue Samurai and The Eagles were a complete contrast to their first half displays.
Kamil Grosicki looked more lively with the likes of Piotr Zielinski and Rafal Kurzawa. In the first half, they seemed to lack in aim and objective. But, in the second, the European nation's midfield won the battle in the middle of the park.
2. Akira Nishino needs to use either Kagawa or Honda in the knockout stages
Japan seemed to lack experience in the game today. With talisman Kagawa rested on the bench, the team seemed to lack vision and creativity. The arrival of Inui didn't help much, as the Real Betis midfielder is more of an attack-minded player with an eye for goal.
Manager Akira Nishino also has World Cup veteran Honda at his disposal. The former AC Milan midfielder might be past his prime, but he had shown in the previous two matches that he is a game-changer. He appeared as a substitute in both of them, with an assist (against Colombia) and a goal (against Senegal).
1. Japan can go past the Round of 16
Nishino's strongest XI (as fielded against Senegal and Colombia) are a solid defensive team with an equally able frontline.
Published: Thu Jun 28, 2018 10:22 PM IST