Japan can again prove they can match it with the FIFA World Cup's "golden standard" -- but will Hajime Moriyasu let them?

Ahead of their must-win Group E clash with Spain at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu has labelled European football as the "golden standard" that the other continents are aspiring towards. AP Photo/Luca Bruno

In his pre-match news conference on Wednesday ahead of a decisive 2022 FIFA World Cup Group E clash against former champions Spain, Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu once again expressed his admiration for European football.

"The golden standard in the world" is what Moriyasu used as a description.

Just last week, ahead of their tournament opener against Germany, Moriyasu had praised the influence German football has had on the development of the their game, with numerous Japanese players -- including eight of the current team -- plying their trade in the Bundesliga, where they have undeniably improved as footballers.

Having humility and showing respect for the opposition is far from a bad thing. It is a common and well-regarded trait in Japanese culture, and Europe has indeed been the standard bearer for world football for decades now.

The bigger issue with Moriyasu's constant exaltation of European football -- and his overgeneralisation, given there have been a handful of teams from the continent that have been woeful at this World Cup -- is that it is bordering on becoming an inferiority complex that could have his players thinking they are already beaten even before the opening whistle.

That in itself would not be that frustrating if not for the fact that Japan have only already come from behind to beat Germany 2-1 a week ago.

It can be slightly confusing for Moriyasu to call on his players to "believe in themselves" that they can beat Spain, but then claim "we are trying to catch up (and) still have a lot to learn".

By opting to place the opposition on a pedestal, Moriyasu is failing to show his own players the respect they deserve.

Out of the 26 players he called out for the tournament, only five had never plied their trade in Europe before.

They boast 100-cap stalwarts like Maya Yoshida and Yuto Nagatomo, players who have and still are playing for some of the biggest clubs in the world like Arsenal defender Takehiro Tomiyasu and ex-Liverpool man Takumi Minamino, and rising stars such as Takefusa Kubo, Kaoru Mitoma and Ritsu Doan.

The same team that beat Germany should easily have picked up another three points against Costa Rica on Sunday, which would have been enough to seal their place in the Round of 16 with a game to spare.

Instead, whether it was again from showing their opponents too much respect or just Moriyasu's risk-averse ways even in matches where they are clearly the favourites, Japan were tentative and passive.

They were lacking in endeavour and invention, and they were ultimately hit by an 81st-minute sucker punch, which has dragged them back into a crowded four-horse race for Group E's two qualifying berths.

It is undeniable that Japan -- and Asia's other representatives -- are still some way off from consistently matching the level of the perennial challengers such as Spain and Germany, and even France, Brazil and Argentina.

But in a tournament environment, especially one like the World Cup where upsets are never too far away, the Samurai Blue could easily spring a surprise on powerhouses like Spain over 90 minutes.

They have already done it against Germany.

Now if only Moriyasu put his money where his mouth is when he asks his charges to show belief in themselves, by displaying similar confidence in sending them out with the system and intent to beat Spain and claim their place in the knockout round.