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Japan must choose wisely

 By John Duerden

Top five matchups in 2018 AFC World Cup final round qualification

South Korea manager Uli Stielike assesses his side's draw in the third round of AFC World Cup Qualifying.

Now that the draw for the 2018 AFC World Cup final qualifying round is out, it is time to take a closer look into which of the region's top players will be up against one another as the games play out.

There will be some fascinating matchups over the coming months, as the best teams on the continent fight it out over the course of 10 games.

Only four Asian nations will be guaranteed World Cup spots, with another two facing more playoffs for a chance to make it to Russia 2018.

The matches begin in...

 By Jason Dasey

Shinji Okazaki poised to eclipse Kagawa's exploits in Premier League

It's taken him less than a full season, but already Shinji Okazaki has matched the goal tally in England of Japan teammate Shinji Kagawa, whose unhappy Manchester United stint spanned 26 months.

Okazaki's eye-catching, overhead strike that gave Leicester City a 1-0 victory over Newcastle United on Monday night, and a five point lead at the top of the Premier League, was his sixth goal in 31 matches in all competitions.

Playing for three different managers, Kagawa managed only six goals in 57 games...

 By John Duerden

Kagawa's progress for club and country crucial for Japan in 2016

Kagawa's club form is crucial for the Japan national team's progress.

After the shock of their quarterfinal exit at January's AFC Asian Cup, 2015 turned out to be a decent year for Japanese football.

But with Shinji Okazaki playing an influential role at English Premier League leaders Leicester City, it's the progress of another Europe-based Shinji that remains the obsession of Japanese fans.

Here are five hopes for Japanese football in 2016.

1. Kagawa's continued resurgence

Shinji Kagawa's time in Europe has been a rollercoaster affair. His first spell with Borussia...

 By Kelvin Leong

Japanese legends paved the way for the likes of Kagawa and Okazaki

Shinji Ono and Hidetoshi Nakata of Japan
Nakata and Ono were part of a golden generation in Japanese football.

Names like Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki easily roll off the tongues of modern European football fans, but their success can be attributed to their legendary compatriots like Hidetoshi Nakata, Shunsuke Nakamura and a certain man the Japanese fans fondly call Tensai.

Born with the gift of an amazing football brain and artistic footwork, Shinji Ono took Japan by surprise when his name was announced as part of the country's 1998 World Cup squad in France, ahead of then-superstars, Kazuyoshi Miura,...

 By Kelvin Leong

Singapore must forget Japan WC blues and paint Kallang red vs. Syria

Singapore must take advantage of playing at home against Syria on Tuesday. (Photo credit: FAS)

Forget last Thursday's 3-0 loss to Japan. Singapore's biggest match of their AFC 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign will be against Syria on Tuesday night at the National Stadium.

Bernd Stange's side must not let the Japanese result linger in their minds as they prepare for battle against the Eagles from Damascus.

Sitting at 132nd on the FIFA world rankings, the West Asians, coached by Fajr Ibrahim, are by no means unbeatable when it comes to playing on Southeast Asian soil.

Two years ago, they...

 By Kelvin Leong

Japan's Kagawa and Honda look for way past spirited Singapore

ESPN FC's Jason Dasey and PJ Roberts preview Singapore's clash against Japan in 2018 AFC World Cup qualifying.

Ever since the AFC second round 2018 World Cup draw was made in Kuala Lumpur six months ago, Singaporeans have been eagerly awaiting the biggest game of Group E -- Singapore vs. Japan at the new National Stadium in Kallang.

The excitement of seeing superstars like Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda and Yuto Nagatomo has gone up a notch ever since the Samurai Blue touched down at Changi International Airport on Monday.

What has added to the spice of this game is the goalless draw in Saitama in June, as...