<
>

Do Japan have enough firepower to gun for FIFA World Cup quarterfinal target after Kyogo Furuhashi, Yuya Osako omissions?

Having been Japan's main man in attack since the last FIFA World Cup, Yuya Osako was a controversial exclusion from the Samurai Blue's 26-man squad for Qatar 2022. AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama

Three weeks away from the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Japan have finalised their squad for the tournament.

Barring any injuries from now till their campaign opener against Germany on Nov. 23, the 26 men named by coach Hajime Moriyasu will be the ones taking to the field for the Samurai Blue at the World Cup.

As is usually the case when squads are announced for a major tournament, there was immediate debate surrounding team selection and there were two notable omissions by Moriyasu.

The first -- Yuya Osako -- was arguably the Samurai Blue's best performer at the last World Cup, who continued to be a handy contributor throughout the Asian qualifiers with ten goals -- even if he has not enjoyed the best of times on the club front following Vissel Kobe's struggles in the J1 League this season.

Peculiarly, the other was perhaps not that surprising an exclusion. For the impact Kyogo Furuhashi has made since joining Celtic -- with 20 goals in 33 games in his debut season with the Scottish Premiership giants -- he had still struggled to force his way into Moriyasu's starting XI over the past 12 months.

Both, however, were shaping up as two of Japan's best bets for goals at the World Cup, which makes it understandable why their absence has raised more than a few eyebrows.

Should Moriyasu have more, or at least equally, viable options to spearhead the Japan -- especially after he stated their target of a maiden quarterfinal appearance -- his squad choices might perhaps be less scrutinized.

Yet, a quick glance at the three options he has plumped for -- Takuma Asano, Ayase Ueda and Daizen Maeda -- will not immediately instill confidence in the Samurai Blue trio, with the trio having combined for just eight international goals with an average of just 18 caps.

Asano, the most experienced of the trio, is currently hampered by injury and is by no means a prolific striker, arguably doing his better work in a wider or less advanced position.

Meanwhile, both Ueda and Maeda have shown promise but are only just finding their feet since moving to Europe, with the former yet to open his account for Japan while the latter has a solitary strike to his name.

In fact, the entire 26-man squad only boasts a combined 82 international goals with Takumi Minamino -- struggling for form since moving to Ligue 1 with Monaco in the summer -- leading the way with 17 and followed next by a surprise second-leading scorer in centre-back and captain Maya Yoshida on 12.

In contrast with some of the other Asian teams heading for the World Cup, South Korea's Son Heung-min has 35 goals alone, while the Iran trio of Mehdi Taremi, Sardar Azmoun and Karim Ansarifard together have scored 98 times on the international stage.

So, if Japan are to have any chance of upsetting either one of Germany and Spain, or defeat Costa Rica for that matter, and advance into the knockout round of the World Cup, where are the goals going to come from?

In Minamino's defence, he does have a habit of performing better for country than club, while wingers Junya Ito and Ritsu Doan will also pose a threat.

Then, there is one-time Barcelona and Real Madrid wonderkid Takefusa Kubo, who looks to have finally found his feet in LaLiga with Real Sociedad and could play a pivotal role in Qatar despite still only being 21.

But perhaps the one man who will be Japan's best bet to find the back of the net is player who is slowly but surely forcing his way into the continent's upper echelon of stars -- and in trademark unassuming fashion.

While far from an out-and-out striker, Eintracht Frankfurt's Daichi Kamada is currently the joint-third top scorer in the Bundesliga with seven goals, ahead of stellar names such as Sadio Mane and Timo Werner.

With 11 goals in 19 outings in all competition so far this season, Kamada has also proven to be capable of thriving in high-pressure situations, having come up clutch for Frankfurt several times on the domestic front in the UEFA Champions League.

Handing more responsibility to players such as Kamada, Kubo and Doan -- who have not exactly established themselves as stalwarts of the national team -- ties in with Moriyasu's comments at his squad announcement, where he revealed he had opted to forego experience for individuals with "burning ambition".

It also must remembered that, at the last World Cup, Japan somehow managed to reach the Round of 16 despite limited options in attack too, although back then they at least had established names like Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa to step up from midfield.

Four years on, the Samurai Blue could yet prove to have enough firepower to get out of the group stage at the World Cup once more.

For now, though, it is difficult to see how they would not have stood a better chance if the likes of Furuhashi and Osako were making the trip to Qatar.