By Cameron Da Silva
Group C: Japan, Ivory Coast, Greece, Colombia
Nicknamed “The Blue Samurai,” Japan is looking to move past the round of 16, something they have never done before.
Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni took charge of the side in 2010 and has had success, winning the 2011 Asian Cup. In winning, they qualified for the 2013 Confederations Cup where they lost all three of their games. He has experience managing big European clubs and is known for unusual 3-4-3 formation.
“Alberto Zaccheroni has the Japanese overachieving, he’s given them a real identity with his tactical knowledge,” said Brendan Dunlop.
“They’ve really built up their soccer program over the past 10-15 years into almost like a quiet powerhouse in Asia. This is such a great team technically. When you think of powerhouse soccer teams, you think of South America and Europe, not Japan,” says Rudi Schuller.
Their strength in the team is the midfield with star players like Keisuke Honda, who plays for AC Milan in Italy and Shinji Kagawa, who plays his club football for Manchester United in the English Premier League.
“They’re not really battle tested. They’re a team that’s good on paper but they haven’t proven it yet. That lack of experience might come into play in this tournament. Savior teams might be able to take advantage of that,” says Rudi Schuller.
With the announcement that the Pokémon Pikachu will be the official team mascot for this summer’s tournament, the country hopes this will spark its team.