With Brazil set to take on Vahid Halilhodzic's side in Lille on Friday, Brasil Global Tour takes a closer look at Samurai Blue
| Nickname: Samurai Blue
Stadium: Saitama Stadium
Top Goalscorer: Kunishige Kamamoto (75)
Most Caps: Yasuhito Endo (152)
|Coach: Vahid Halilhodzic|
Though they had tough time in the last stage of Asian World Cup qualifying, Halilhodzic led Japan safely to a sixth consecutive World Cup finals this year. Since his arrival in March 2015, the Bosnian has preached a "fast-paced, attacking style" that has challenged the traditional possession-based style of the country. As a result, he received some criticism from the local media but won them over when his side defeated Australia in a crucial qualifier in August.
The 65-year-old, for example, spoke at length following PSG’s recent victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League to illustrate the apparent "pointless" of long spells of possession. A colourful character, he has also developed a reputation for giving extended press conferences.
|Rising Star: Yosuke Ideguchi|
The 21-year-old Gamba Osaka man has been earmarked for a big future. A box-to-box midfielder with bags of energy, he has earned praise for his sacrifices in defence and shoots well from distance – as was evident in August when he fired into the top corner of the Australian goal from just outside the penalty area.
That sensational strike earned the rising star of Japanese football the accolade of becoming his country’s second-youngest scorer in a World Cup qualifier, just behind the legendary Hidetoshi Nakata. Ideguchi has attracted admirers from across Europe and has been heavily linked with a move to English club Leeds United. Whether he heads to Elland Road or not, a future in European football seems a certainty.
|One to Watch: Ryota Morioka|
Back in the side after a three-year absence, Morioka’s last appearance for his country came when Brazil and Japan last met on the Brasil Global Tour back in 2014, when the Selecao ran out 4-0 winners in Singapore. The 26-year-old midfielder joined Belgian Pro League side Waasland-Beveren this season and has been in sensational form, hitting six goals and bagging eight assists already.
He emerged in his homeland as a classic No.10, but has since become a more all-action midfielder since leaving his homeland in in 2016 for Polish club Slask Wroclaw. His return to the squad has been a major talking point in Japan and he will be desperate to impress in what appears to be his audition for Halilhodzic’s World Cup squad.
|The view from Japan|
Ryo Hiramatsu - Goal Japan:
"Despite being heavyweights of Asian football, Japan accept they will face national teams of a much higher quality at the World Cup, which means November’s friendlies against Brazil and Belgium provide an excellent opportunity to test themselves against the sort of opposition they will face in Russia. These two games will tell us much about what we can expect from Japan next year.
"If Halilhodzic’s approach doesn’t work this month, there will be calls to return to a more traditional Japanese style. Star players like Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki were all left out for these games – the reason for which is not clear – and so the likes of Kazuki Nagasawa, Morioka and Shinzo Kouroki have a huge chance to show that they can step up to the challenge."Brazil meet Japan at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy stadium in Lille on Friday, November 10.