[2018 WC Qualifiers Preview] Australia vs. Japan

Starting lineups have been announced, and this is how Japan is lining up:

Projected Formation: 4-3-3


GK: Shusaku Nishikawa
LB: Tomoaki Makino
CB: Masato Morishige
CB: Maya Yoshida
RB: Gotoku Sakai
CM: Makoto Hasebe
CM: Hotaru Yamaguchi
LW: Genki Haraguchi
CAM: Shinji Kagawa
RW: Yu Kobayashi
FW: Keisuke Honda

Interesting squad selection to say the least.

  1. Makino coming into the defensive line, so Japan has 3 natural CBs. This is obviously for preparing for aerial battles.
  2. Gotoku Sakai playing at RB instead of Hiroki Sakai. Personally, I would have gone with Hiroki Sakai because of his height and ability to win headers compared to Gotoku Sakai.
  3. Hotaru Yamaguchi coming into the starting line up after scoring his last minute game-winning goal against Iraq. To battle against Australia’s strength, Yamaguchi is a much better option that Yosuke Kashiwagi, who started the last match against Iraq.
  4. Genki Haraguchi is the player to watch for tonight’s match. He has been the most dangerous player and also most industrious player on the pitch for Japan.
  5. Shinji Kagawa is back in the starting lineup even though Kiyotake played an impressive match against Iraq. I think Manager Halilhodžić wants to use Kagawa’s quickness and attacking aggressiveness to find a way through Australia’s strong defense.
  6. Yu Kobayashi is in the starting lineup for the first time in World Cup Qualifying. Kobayashi is great a being elusive and then finding space behind defenders, which makes him a different player from Haraguchi. So, with these two players on the flanks, Japan has a variety of attacking patterns they can create to break down Australia’s defense.
  7. Keisuke Honda is playing as the lone striker. He has not played the lone striker role since the 2010 World Cup when Takeshi Okada was manager of the national team. Because of Okazaki’s injury, Manager Halilhodžić did not have much choices for the lone striker role, especially because Australia’s defenders have strength. Therefore, the only player who is capable of battling with Australia’s defenders is Honda. I think this is an interesting gamble, which I support. With Honda holding the ball up from, Haraguchi, Kagawa, and Kobayashi can make runs in behind the defense from the midfield.

Keys for Japan:

  1. Short one-touch passes. Instead of going straight to goal, Japan should use one-touch passes to bring defenders out of position. After connecting a few one-touch passes, players should make runs into space behind defenders. This movement will also draw defenders out of position, and if the passing lane is open, a pass should be played in. Then, players should make positive movements into space and between the lines.
  2. Utilize the flanks and side backs. Australia is playing with a diamond midfield, which is difficult to break down because it is a compact formation; however, if Japan’s players are able to use the flanks and their side backs effectively, this will stretch the diamond out. Thus, creating space for midfielders to find space between the lines.
  3. Second balls. Japan needs to pick up second balls, which is something they could not do against Iraq in their last match.
  4. Close down Rogic. Australia’s CAM Rogic is a tall player with good technique and even better playmaking skills. Yamaguchi and Hasebe will have to communicate well when marking Rogic and also confirming where Rogic is on the pitch.


Unfortunately, I will not do a live match report for the match because I am not feeling well. However, I will make a post (today or tomorrow) about what I saw in the Iraq match and tonight’s Australia match.


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