Yes, lizard people, we’re covering the Copa América, the CONMEBOL South American lesser footy federation’s championship, where 12 teams will square off to be the best in South America. Which is why I’m covering Japan today.
Yes, this makes total sense. (Ron Howard: “It didn’t.”)
Interestingly the non-South American teams that normally get invited (Mexico and the United States) were not included. According to Wikipedia three CONCACAF (the North American federation) teams and three AFC (the Asian federation) teams were originally invited to plan a 16-team tourney before becoming this 12-team tourney that it’s been since 1993, but it’s just two Asian squads this time around and the 12-team tourney.
Just as interestingly this is not Japan’s first rodeo in the Copa, but their second. Their first was in 1999. They even earned a point—it was in their third and final game, a 1-1 draw against Bolivia. No, last I checked, Japan has not gone and had crazy continental drift in the last 20 years, though if they did that would be pretty cool. Does that give them an advantage over the other Asian squad, Qatar? Probably. Also being ranked 26th by FIFA as opposed to Qatar’s 55th ranking helps.
Apart from having pretty nice first-choice unis,
looking at the Samurai Blue’s team called up for the Copa, it’s… mostly players making their debuts with the senior club, many of whom are under the age of 23. There are four players with double-digit caps on the 23-man roster, and apart from forward (and I assume captain based on caps and him playing for a team I’ve actually heard of, Foxy Footy) Shinji Okazaki, the entire team has a grand total of 7 goals for the squad. Okazaki has 50. Most of the senior players played in the Kirin Challenge Cup, a tournament in Japan sponsored by the Kirin Brewery Company, a round-robin that this year featured Colombia, Bolivia, and Trinidad and Tobago (Colombia won).
With it almost entirely being the U-23 team apart from the keeper and the star, I imagine the Samurai’ll have a tough time of it in Brazil. Let’s check the group… they are in Group C, with Uruguay, Ecuador, and Chile. According to the FIFA rankings, Uruguay is apparently the superior footy Guay in 6th (though having Bitey ought to drop them a few spots on principle), Chile is 15th, and Ecuador is 59th. So in Wichita you’d expect them to go 1-0-2, finish 3rd in the group and I guess have a chance to sneak in with one of the two 3rd place spots? That would be with the senior team though. The mostly U-23 squad is apparently pretty decent and regularly does well in the Asian competitions in things such as Olympic qualifying (though they don’t have to worry about that this time around because 2020 is in Tokyo), so I wouldn’t say there should be too much of a drop-off, so screw it.
6/17 vs. Chile:
6/20 vs. Uruguay:
6/24 vs. Ecuador:
Sure, let’s say 3 points with a win over Ecuador and a fight with Paraguay over the 2nd of the quarterfinal spots, but Paraguay does get the benefit of playing Qatar in their first match (for maximum jetlag and jitters) so they get edged out. They forget the most important thing.
Wait, wrong show. Sorry, Chairman Kaga.
And we better not forget our most important thing.