Japan Heads For Crucial World Cup Soccer Opener Against Germany

Japan heads for crucial World Cup soccer opener against Germany

Japan's soccer squad faces a crucial World Cup opener against four-time champions Germany. The Group E match is set for Wednesday in Qatar.

The Samurai Blue has a history of relying on first match results in the tournament.

It has reached the World Cup knockout stage three times, all after winning or drawing in the first match. It failed to advance in the other three after losing the opener.

Germany ranks 11th, while Japan is 24th in FIFA standings.

Of Germany's 26-member squad, 20 players appear in the top-tier Bundesliga. The key players are from powerhouse Bayern Munich, including goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and midfielder Joshua Kimmich.

Key Japanese players are also active in the Bundesliga. They include captain Yoshida Maya, defensive midfielder Endo Wataru and offensive playmaker Kamada Daichi.

Yoshida said the team is in a very good mood, with a mix of excitement and anxiety about the battle against former champions Germany. He said he wants to stun the world with a big surprise.

In other Group E fixtures, Japan will face Costa Rica -- ranked 31st -- on November 27, and 7th-ranked Spain on December 1.