Scouting players that make Japan tick ahead of crucial Socceroos World Cup Qualifier

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The sporting world has learned by now that you should never write off an Aussie – we make for a very dangerous underdog when our backs are against the wall.

It’s fair to say that the Socceroos fulfil the dangerous underdog brief in the AFC qualifying campaign for the World Cup later this year, although Graham Arnold will be acutely aware that his side have to win both of their remaining games – against the classy Japan and then against table-toppers Saudi Arabia – if they are to qualify for the Qatar extravaganza automatically.

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Japan are first up – they will head to Stadium Australia on March 24, and the Socceroos will have revenge on their mind after an 85th minute Aziz Behich own goal condemned them to a 1-2 defeat in Saitama back in October.

The Aussies will probably be a slight underdog in the World Cup 2022 online betting odds for the encounter, and that’s largely due to the quality that Japan have at their disposal. Japan also beat the Socceroos in the reverse fixture almost six months ago.

So, to mark your card, here are three Japanese stars that the Socceroos will need to stop during this all-or-nothing contest.

Takumi Minamino

While not a regular at Liverpool by any means, the fact that Jurgen Klopp saw fit to sign Takumi Minamino from Salzburg in the first place is a testament to his qualities.

The 27-year-old never lets his German manager down when given a chance either. At the time of writing, Minamino had started seven games during the 2021/22 campaign and scored seven goals, and his individual Expected Goals count is fifth at the club behind only the fab four of Mo Salah, Diogo Jota, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.

The forward has scored 17 international games in 37 caps for Japan, and he opened the scoring in their crunch clash with Saudi Arabia last time out – a victory that blew the AFC qualifying group wide open.

If the Socceroos are to get anything from the Japan game, they will need to stop Minamino from finding the back of the net.

Takehiro Tomiyasu

When Arsenal announced they had signed Takehiro Tomiyasu for £19 million on transfer deadline day in the summer, you could forgive Gunners fans for feeling a tad nonplussed.

Signings made just hours before the deadline often have a whiff of desperation about them, and the 23-year-old’s background – his last two clubs have been Belgian side Sint-Truiden and Italians Bologna – hardly screams of elite talent.

But Tomiyasu has already become a cult hero at the club thanks to his full-blooded displays, and the marauding right back is equally comfortable defending as he is bombing forward and joining in with attacks.

Kyogo Furuhashi

When Celtic sold their main striker Odsonne Edouard in the summer, they needed a new frontman to step up to the plate.

Ironically, Greco-Aussie Ange Postecoglou – who was named Bhoys boss back in June – decided to tap into his time in the Japanese J-League and snapped up Kyogo Furuhashi for his new employer… and it’s fair to say he hasn’t disappointed.

The 27-year-old has, at the time of writing, netted eight goals in fourteen Scottish Premiership games and been prolific in their Europa League campaign, and his partnership with Minamino could prove vital during the climax of AFC qualifying.

The Socceroos will be hoping that it’s them, and not Saudi Arabia, that joins the Japanese in qualifying for the World Cup automatically.

Feature image credit: Alen Delic

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