The upcoming international window is the last opportunity for Hajime qMoriyasu to evaluate his team and who would be the best 26 players to bring to Qatar.
Four years ago, Moriyasu was an assistant for Japan when they qualified for the last 16 in Russia, though making it beyond the opening phase this time around could be much more challenging, seeing as they are in a group which features a pair of European powerhouses in Germany and Spain, two nations ranked 11th and sixth respectively according to FIFA.
Their road to the knockout stage in Qatar may be a difficult one, however, this side fared well in Asian qualifying against some formidable teams, finishing second in a group which featured Saudi Arabia and Australia, two countries that along with Japan are World Cup bound.
At the moment, Japan are the top-ranked team in Asia (24th), capturing the East Asian Cup thanks to a 3-0 victory over South Korea in July, their first trophy in a major competition since winning the Asian Cup in 2011.
They have suffered only one defeat in their previous six matches in all competitions, while their defence is among the stingiest in Asia, conceding just six total goals in the second and third rounds of 2022 qualifying.
Excluding the World Cup hosts, Qatar, who did not participate in the third round of qualifying, those six goals allowed were the second-fewest among the Asian countries that made it to the finals, with South Korea conceding just four.
After squandering a 2-0 lead to Belgium in a 3-2 defeat at the 2018 World Cup knockout stage, the Samurai Blue have been much tougher to break down when leading, without a defeat in any competitive fixture in which they have tallied first since their exit from the previous finals, outscoring their last three opponents by a combined score of 9-0.
Gregg Berhalter has a lot of tough decisions to make between now and November 21 when his Americans kickoff their World Cup campaign versus Wales.
Their qualifying campaign may not have been the most impressive, with the Americans finishing third in the Octagon, behind Mexico and Canada, but the individual quality on this side carried them through.
That quality is a luxury that many of Berhalter’s predecessors did not have, as many Americans currently feature in the top leagues in Europe.
Despite the number of questions surrounding this team since the ex-Columbus Crew boss took over after a failed 2018 World Cup qualification campaign, the 49-year-old ex-defender has managed to keep this team winning on a reasonably consistent basis.
In his four-plus years at the helm, the US were able to capture the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup titles in the summer of 2021 and most importantly, they are back in the World Cup for the first time since 2014.
Coming into this friendly, the Yanks have only suffered one defeat in their last eight matches in all competitions, with five shutouts over that stretch.
In the new millennium, the US have only played seven international matches against teams that compete in Asia, with the Americans winning six of those games, while their lone blemish over that time was a 2-1 loss versus South Korea in 2001.
While the Yanks have not lost a game on American soil since falling 3-0 to Mexico in 2019, they have had their struggles outside of their home country, going winless in six straight away matches in all competitions, failing to tally in four of those fixtures.