Japan’s last-16 exit reflects highs and lows under Moriyasu
posed by the coronavirus pandemic, which reduced the already limited opportunities to assemble a full squad during the World Cup cycle.
He faced speculation about his job after Japan lost two of their first three fixtures in the final phase of Asian World Cup qualifying, but answered with a six-match win streak that enabled the Samurai Blue to punch their ticket to Qatar with a round to spare.
While Moriyasu’s team selections and an often conservative tactical approach have been lightning rods for his detractors, his orchestration of the victories over Germany and Spain should have answered any questions about his tactical judgment.
He helped Japan serve notice as a rising football power in Qatar, equaling their best-ever World Cup result in the process, but the team will nevertheless rue missing the opportunity to set a new benchmark.