Japan once again proved themselves as top dogs in Group F of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Asia Qualifying second round as they defeated a resilient Tajikistan side 3-0 in Dushanbe on Tuesday night. The win meant that Japan has won all 3 of their qualifying games so far, taking them top of Group F with quite a comfortable margin. Football Tribe Asia’s Krishna Sadhana takes a look at 5 things that came out from this match…
Group F a Foregone Conclusion?
Japan easily powered to victory in Dushanbe as they duly dispatched hosts Tajikistan 3-0. Considering the quality of the other nations in Samurai Blue's group - the aforementioned Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and Myanmar - are slightly lower if not lower than Japan's, should they dispatch Kyrgyzstan in November, Japan will pretty much wrap up Group F. They are currently top of the group with 3 wins out of 3, with 11 goals scored and 0 conceded. Group F is growing too easy for Japan and they should secure qualification to the next round with relative ease.
Minamino Once Again the Main Man
Once again Takumi Minamino impressed massively for his country as he bagged a brace in Japan's 3-0 win over Tajikistan. The match was the third consecutive competitive match in which Minamino scored for Japan, and fourth if we count Japan's Kirin Challenge Cup friendly win over Paraguay on September 5th, just before the start of Samurai Blue's 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign. After a goalless first-half, the Red Bull Salzburg player headed home a Shoya Nakajima cross in the 53rd minute to open the scoreline, before completing his brace three minutes later after taking advantage of a perfect pass from Hiroki Sakai. The 24-year old attacker is in a rich vein of form for both club and country as of late, and if he retains his form, the biggest names in football may have to stand up and take notice of Minamino's mercurial talent.
Sakai the Creator
Another standout performer of Tuesday night's match was Hiroki Sakai. The 29-year old Marseille right-back had not only defended well but also created two of his team's three goals of the night. It was his pinpoint pass that enabled Takumi Minamino to complete his brace and in the 82nd minute, Sakai once again orchestrated a Japanese goal with a deep cross that was headed home by substitute Takuma Asano.
Tajikistan Defended Well But It Was Not to Be
To their credit, the Tajikistan defense had done well to keep up with Japan's fearsome attack. Marshaled by TIRA-Persikabo defender Khurshed Beknazarov, the Tajik defense managed to prevent Japan from scoring in the first half, being the first team in Group F not to concede against the Samurai Blue after 45 minutes. However, as Japan got themselves used to the artificial pitch at Dushanbe's Central Republican Stadium, the Tajik defense slowly began to crack before Japan showed their Central Asian counterparts their true quality and strength to put the hosts to the sword.
Central Asians Will Duel For 2nd?
With Japan pretty much dominating Group F, things are heating up in the race for the second ticket out of the group and into the next round. Both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are eying that 2nd place ticket, with the latter being above the former in the Group F table by the virtue of goal difference with both sides having gained 6 points. The two Central Asian nations are quite equal in strength and their squads are balanced in quality, which means the race for 2nd will be an exciting one between the Central Asian rivals. However, one must not write off Mongolia, who are tailing Tajikistan on 4th by 3 points. Considering their upcoming matches, Mongolia's chances of joining the Central Asians' battle are quite slim, but should either Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan slip up and Mongolia take advantage of the opportunity presented to them, they might end up shocking everyone and sneak their way towards that 2nd place.