Japan might as well smash and grab for the remainder of the FIFA World Cup after shocking upsets.
Japanese football has a long history and a well-earned reputation for being methodical, technical, and creative.
Japan enjoys maintaining possession and methodically dismantling its adversaries.
But if using the opposite strategy got them into the Round of 16 at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, they might as well continue playing their uncharacteristic smash-and-grab strategy for the rest of the competition.
The Samurai Blue contributed to an incredible Group E finale on Thursday by coming from behind to defeat Spain 2-1 at Khalifa International Stadium. After falling behind after Alvaro Morata’s 11th-minute goal, a swift double from Ritsu Doan and Ao Tanaka within six minutes of the second half was the game-winner.
After doing the same against Germany in their initial game, Japan pulled off a stirring comeback against one of the World Cup’s former champions and perennial contenders for the second time in three meetings.
Similar drama was taking place at Al Bayt Stadium, just 50 kilometres away, but despite Germany defeating Costa Rica 4-2, Spain advanced with Japan as the group’s runner-up because to their superior goal differential following their opening 7-0 victory over the hosts.
Consequently, the Samurai Blue are somehow through to the last phase for a second consecutive World Cup while being able to boast stunning victories over the Germans and Spain, despite a humiliating 1-0 loss to Costa Rica just four days earlier in which they were totally wretched.
Now, Japan will play Croatia in the Round of 16 on Monday, where they should once more enter as underdogs.
In the long run, it is hoped that aspirant Asian teams will develop to the point where they can compete on an equal footing with European and South American powerhouses in regular play rather than having to rely on a smash-and-grab victory, which is unpredictable and may not always produce the desired outcome.
However, with little time to make changes during a competition, it might be best to avoid correcting what is not wrong. Even so, Japan’s method of growth does raise some concerns about coach Hajime Moriyasu.
When the Samurai Blue’s campaign is done, there will be time to evaluate how they fared as a whole, including a review of their future under Moriyasu.
Japan’s brave, heroic, and somewhat erratic ways have served them well enough for the time being.
So long as they can, they might as well continue.
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