Japan face Chile at the Sapporo Dome on Friday in what will be their first match since the heartbreaking Last 16 exit from the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Hajime Moriyasu has taken over as the head coach as Japan prepare themselves to face an international opponent for the first time since their painful exit from the World Cup. But, while the Blue Samurais are expected to receive a warm welcome back in Japan, the same might not be expected from their opponents for the game, Chile.
Chile will be baffled while thinking how a talented squad such as theirs failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia. But the South Americans will be entirely focused on the Copa America, a trophy they wish to retain after winning the last two editions. Chile would be considering the Japan game as their first step towards preparing for the defence of their crown.
Chile are visiting the far east side of the planet for doubleheader friendlies, first with Japan and later next week they play South Korea. But overall, fans will be hoping the qualities of both sides shine on the pitch and produce plenty of goals to entertain.
Team News & Tactics
After Haime Moriyasu stepped up from being an assistant at the World Cup to assume full control of Japan on a full-time basis, the new boss has made plenty of changes to the Blue Samurai squad. Moriyasu has only retained six players from Japan’s World Cup squad for the two friendlies against Chile and Costa Rica.
Tomoaki Makino and Wataru Endo will provide steel to the side in defence and midfield, respectively. And Takuma Asano, who was dropped from the World Cup squad should lead the line in attack for the Samurais.
Other than the aforementioned trio, there are plenty of inexperienced players in the side, as well as many stars from the J-League, as Moriyasu looks to experiment with the side for the friendlies and look to stamp his image on the side going forward.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Higashiguchi; Muroya, Sasaki, Makino, Kurumaya; Endo, Morita; Ito, Minamino, Nakajima; Asano
After missing out on a World Cup berth, Chile, are actively looking to regroup for the next Copa America. La Roja are full of experienced stars, all of whom still have hopes to feature in at least one last major tournament before calling time on their international careers.
But, Chile will be missing their most prominent star in Alexis Sanchez after Manchester United requested the Chilean FA not to include the forward for the upcoming friendlies. Another one of their stars, captain, Claudio Bravo will also be missing through injury as the goalkeeper is ruled out for the best part of the current season.
Chile, despite those high profile absentees, are travelling with many experienced players on their roster with Gary Medel, Arturo Vidal and Mauricio Isla all going to Japan.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Arias; Isla, Medel, Maripan, Albornoz; Vidal, Hernandez; Rodriguez, Valdes, Sagal; Henriquez
- The last time the two sides met, Chile were comprehensively beaten 4-0 by Japan.
- In fact, Chile are yet to beat Japan in an international game.
- Japan have conceded in each of the nine games that they have played in 2018.
- Japan have lost 6 of their last 10 international matches.
- In Chile’s last 7 games, 5 of them have seen both teams score.
Player to Watch
Despite being 31-year-old, Arturo Vidal seems to be showing no signs of slowing down just yet, and a recent move to Barcelona will have the midfielder all fired up to perform. Vidal has tasted immense success, and there are chances he might play at least a couple of big international tournaments for his nation, the next one being the Copa America.
Having suffered heartbreak from their failure to qualify for the World Cup, Vidal will be hoping that performances in games such as the one against Japan will go a long way to helping La Roja regroup as a team and prepare themselves for the next Copa America. A huge game against the Asian giants that calls for the 31-year-old stalwart to step up.
Japan 1-2 Chile
Both teams are rife with great potential to harm each other on the pitch. Yet, on paper, Chile look like the stronger of the two sides. Despite the absence of key players such as Alexis Sanchez, La Roja have the might to hurt Japan on the pitch with players like Arturo Vidal and Mauricio Isla in the ranks.
But, one cannot underestimate the Japanese side for they showed what they are capable of doing as a unit in Russia. The selection of only six players from the entire World Cup squad indicates that Japan are ready to enter the revamping stage, which is when teams can hurt. So, at least based on the quality and circumstances ahead, Chile should pip Japan for a close win.