Japan is a really cool country that everyone should visit in their lifetime because it has just about everything a person can ask for. It’s an ancient culture that is on the cutting age of technology. And they have a ton of weird shit–including sea creatures that eat from their ass. Of course, this is DFO, so everyone here already knows this. What most people may not know–but probably wouldn’t be surprised to find out– is that Japan has an extensive list of monster and mystical creature stories that puts most countries to shame. For example, people may think Japan’s declining birth rate is because the Japanese are too busy working, but, the real truth is, most women are afraid of giving birth to a Kekkai– a demon thing that is essentially a lump of flesh, blood and hair. Once it runs out of the woman’s vagina, it immediately leaves the hospital and tries to burrow underneath its mother’s home in order to murder her later.
Ever wonder why Japan still has a ton of squatting holes, even inside modern business buildings, instead of advance Western toilets that feature a ton of cool stuff? It’s because there are hundreds of demonic creatures and monster stories that kill or maim people while taking a dump. People poo in fear over there. Poor children hear these stories like Aka Manto, who approaches people in bathroom stalls and asks them the question: “Would you like red paper or blue paper?” If you say red, your flesh is sliced into ribbons. If you choose blue, you’re strangled to death. If you pick any other color, you’re dragged to hell. Instilling fear at such a young age causes children to not want to poo. I suspect these stories played a role in why Taro Gomi had to write a book about everyone needing to poop. To celebrate their amusing monster culture, this preview is going to examine which monster or mystical creature can best describe each phase of Japan’s lesser footy team.
World Cup appearance: 6th
Best World Cup finish: Round of 16 (2002, 2010)
FIFA Ranking: 60
Nickname: Blue Samarai
History: Up until the creation of the J-League in 1992 (Japan’s Premier League), Japan was a backwater of a backwater country in terms of lesser footy relevance. Once their professional domestic league was established and they began to sign old, but well known international stars like Zico, Leonardo, Dunga, etc, the popularity of lesser footy sky rocketed. Knowing that they wanted to host and not be embarrassed at their World Cup, Japan invested heavily on its lesser footy program. The results were almost immediate as they came close to qualifying for the ’94 World Cup. In the next World Cup cycle, Japan scored a goal against Iran in the 118th minute to secure a spot at the ’98 World Cup in France. Since that moment, lesser footy has almost caught up to American cricket in terms of popularity. Similarly to South Korea, who has qualified for numerous World Cups in a row, Japan is looking to take the next step and be a team that perennially makes it to at least the round of 16.
After a miserable and disappointing performance that saw Japan being knocked out of the group stage in 2014 (many thought that team was good enough to reach the quarter finals), Japan has played awful ever since. Their one saving grace has been the fact that most Asian countries are having a down cycle due to socio-political reasons. Consequently, despite playing like ass, the Blue Samurai qualified for the World Cup. However, within the past seven months, Japan has tied Haiti and Mali (both teams are horrendous), got crushed 4-1 to Korea in Japan, and lost 2-1 to the Ukraine. The game against Ukraine was so uninspiring, the Japanese federation fired manager Vahid Halilhodzid two months before the World Cup and replaced him with Akira Nishino. (More on him later) Like the title of this preview says, they have made a monstrous mess.
Final 23 Man Roster Roster:
Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima (Metz). Masaaki Higashiguchi (Gamba Osaka), Kosuke Nakamura (Kashiwa Reysol).
The Japanese Godzilla franchise best describes this World Cup cycle for Japan’s goaltending. In the first Godzilla movie, our monster is vilified for wrecking Japan. Similarly, when the second round of World Cup qualifiers began—which is when things actually get somewhat challenging for Japan– Eiji Kawashima was destroying Japan’s chances of qualifying for the World Cup by letting in catastrophic goals. Consequently, Kawashima was benched for Masaki Higashiguchi.
While fans initially rejoiced, Higashiguchi turned out to be Hedorah, the monster best known to be a metaphor for severe pollution. Just like when Hedorah walks by a polluted industrial park, which leads to Japanese citizens passing out and on the verge of death, each time Higashiguchi stepped onto the field, the Blue Samurai were getting closer to being eliminated. Luckily, Godzilla showed up at the last minute to save the day.
Eiji Kawashima had himself one hell of a year. He started the season as Metz’s backup and off the Japanese team. When Metz was on the verge of being relegated, Kawashima was given the opportunity to start and he played so well, he became Metz’s starting goalie for the rest of the year and helped them stave off relegation. Likewise in Godzilla’s sequel, Godzilla vs Hedorah, Godzilla learned new moves to fight, and Kawashima changed his goaltending style, making him look infallible. This led to him becoming Japan’s starting goalie again. With all the new changes occurring with the Blue Samarai, he’s going to have to be flawless for Japan to have a chance to make it through to the round of 16.
With that said, after the Godzilla/Hedorah fight, Godzilla becomes blind in one of his eyes, making him vulnerable in future fights against other monsters. Now in his mid-30’s, Kawashima may have had his last magical run and is due to look like a guy who has seen better days. This could be a problem when he is going to have to face monsters like Colombia’s Rodriguez, Poland’s Lewandoski and Senegal’s Mané. In a time of chaos, which it absolutely is for Japan’s lesser footy team, it seems foolish to rely on a vulnerable monster. Aside from vulnerability, you can’t rely on Godzilla because in the end, Godzilla is still a monster.
Defenders: Yuto Nagatomo (Galatasaray), Tomoaki Makino (Urawa Reds), Wataru Endo (Urawa Reds), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Hiroki Sakai (Marseille), Gotoku Sakai (Hamburg), Gen Shoji (Kashima Antlers), Naomichi Ueda (Kashima Antlers).
This Japanese defense, I call it Maria Ozawa because their defense is easily penetrated. Similarly to Ozawa’s partners in her biology videos, the other team is going to score early and often through the front and back door, leaving them with a happy ending before the video—or in this case the match—is over. Some of Ozawa’s best work is her solo scenes. Likewise, with Japan deciding to play with just three defenders, it’s going to be amusing to watch the defenders fuck themselves (towards defeat).
Midfielders: Makoto Hasebe (Eintracht Frankfurt), Keisuke Honda (Pachuca), Takashi Inui (Eibar), Shinji Kagawa (Dortmund), Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka), Genki Haraguchi (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Takashi Usami (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Gaku Shibasaki (Getafe), Ryota Oshima (Kawasaki Frontale).
The Kitsune are essentially foxes that have magic powers that transform themselves into attractive women in order to trick men into having sex with them. A lesser powered Kitsune will have sex with a man and then transform into a fox immediately after coitus– where they will fly around the room, shit talking the man, saying that they just had sex with a magical fox.
A higher powered Kitsune can stay human longer, get pregnant, and then when they give birth, the baby is revealed to be a kit (a baby fox). That is when the Kitsune shit talks the guy while doing the Deion Sanders dance, ultimately crushing the man’s spirits.
Just like the Kitsune have up to nine tails, Japan’s midfield have up to nine players. Japan’s position of strength is in their midfield. In the eyes of the Blue Samauri fans, Hasebe, Honda and Kagawa is a thing of great beauty that give them hope. Unfortunately, they’ll be stretched thin. Since defensive midfielder, Aoyama, is injured, Hasebe will be periodically dropping down to defense to play center back. He is figuratively going to be the link between defense and midfield. Honda is still talented, but on the downside of his career. Furthermore, he has struggled with the national team and part of that has something to do with the fact that he reportedly hated former manager, Vahid Halilhodzid. Now that Halilhodzid is gone, perhaps Honda will be motivated to not suck for Japan. Another Japanese hero, Kagawa, is a hell of a player and will be setting up the offense. Similarly to goalkeeper Kawashima, Kagawa played himself off—and back on—the national team. He will be burdened to carry the offense for midfielders while Hasebe and Honda are stretched too thin.
There’s an ancient Japanese story that tells of a man who was tricked by a Kitsune and falls in love with it. This was a nine tailed Kitsune, so, the man finds out his “wife” was a mystical fox when the “woman” gives birth to a kit. Even after the Deion Sanders dance, the man doesn’t care and chooses to live with the Kitsune because he has a beautiful wife. Every morning, the Kitsune leaves the house and transforms back from a woman to a mystical fox to trick more people, only to return at night.
Even though this guy has a beautiful wife at home, in the end, the wife is not real and he is fucking a mystical, nine-tailed fox. Japan’s midfield is being led by some of Japan’s greatest players of all-time, which must look really appealing. But in the grand scale of things, they are past their prime and are ultimately tricking the faithful into thinking they have a remote possibility in advancing to the round of 16. In other words, the Japanese hopeful are figuratively about to bang a mystical fox and they don’t even know it.
Forwards: Shinji Okazaki (Leicester), Yuya Osako (Werder Bremen), Yoshinori Muto (Mainz).
The Jorogumo is a giant spider who lives near waterfalls, has the ability to take the form of a beautiful woman who seduces men, wraps them up in her webs, poisons them, and eats them. Japan’s Jorogumo best resembles Japan’s strikers because another Japanese great, thirty-two year old, Shinji Okazaki, will be expected to score for the Japanese. Like Honda and Kagawa, his career is on the downside and he has played poorly for Japan. He’s skilled, but he won’t be able to match the scoring rate his opponents will be doing. So while fans are salivating that an attractive option like Okazaki is their number one target on offense, he’s going to metaphorically turn into a spider and slowly poison the fans’ hopes, leading to the death of advancing past the group stage by the end of the second game.
Manager: Akira Nishino
Imagine you’re stressed and get that sudden urge to take a shit. You enter the restroom and sit down on the toilet, and begin to take care of business. Then, out of nowhere, a beautiful, young woman without legs asks you if you know where her legs are (she lost them when fell on a railway line and was cut in half by the oncoming train). Stunned and confused by this interesting and possibly sexy turn of events, you will likely not know the correct answer, being “On the Meishin Expressway.” But even if you answer correctly she will ask you who gave you the answer (answer Kashima Reiko), and then try to trick you with “Do you know my name?” If you answer “Kashima Reiko”, she will rip you to bloody pieces. The correct answer is “Mask Death Demon.”. Essentially, you’re screwed because none of us know how to properly pronounce Japanese words.
This is the managerial situation for the Blue Samurai. After firing Vahid Halilhodzid, most people felt relieved, especially since they got to hire Nishino. As attractive as the hiring of Nishino may seem, he’s going to metaphorically cut the legs off the fans running with the notion that a managerial change is going to solve Japan’s problems. Two games isn’t a big enough sample size, but, Japan lost at home 2-0 to Ghana, a team that didn’t even qualify for the World Cup and his tactics were somewhat questionable, like having just three defenders. This has continued as they lost 2-0 on June 8th, to Switzerland. That’s 180 minutes without scoring a goal under Nishino’s reign. Not a good look.
Final Thoughts: When it comes to the World Cup, timing is everything. Japan is in an awkward transition stage that is going to cost them not only being able to make it to the round of 16, but having a shot of winning a winnable group. Replacing your manager a little over two months before the World Cup is a bad sign. Even worse, they lost two games by the score of 2-0 and have not improved their play under Nishino. They have one more friendly against Paraguay to figure things out before the World Cup begins. Scheduling is everything for mid-level teams and I think Colombia is a bad first match for Japan. Japan’s defense is so bad, it might be the confidence booster James needs to get going in order to have a dominant world cup akin to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Combine this with the fact this is easily the weakest team Japan has fielded this century, and I think it’s safe to say that the best they can hope for is that their two greatest players of all-time (Honda and Kagawa) do not get embarrassed at presumably their last World Cup.
/Voice over: The entire team committed seppuku on the field after the third game because they didn’t score a goal the entire tournament.