Maya Yoshida

AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama

2018 World Cup team preview: Japan

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Getting to know Japan: It’s a sixth-straight appearance for Japan, who has either been terrible or inspiring every other tournament.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

Thrice winless and twice Round of 16 combatants, the Samurai Blue are sound but need to find goals if they want to return to the knockout rounds.

For more history on Japan, click here.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 


What group are they in? Group H. Japan is probably the underdog of the bunch, with Poland, Colombia, and Senegal all capable of claiming top honors

Game schedule – Group H – Full 2018 World Cup schedule, here

Tuesday, June 19: Colombia v Japan, Saransk 8 a.m. ET
Sunday, June 24: Japan v Senegal, Yekaterinburg 11 a.m. ET
Thursday, June 28: Japan v Poland, Volgograd 10 a.m. ET


Projected lineup (4-3-3) – Check out the 23-man squad list in full

—– Kawashima —–

— Sakai — Yoshida — Shoji — Nagatomi

—- Haraguchi —- Hasebe —- Yamaguchi —-

—- Honda —- Osako —- Usami —-


Star player: Maya Yoshida — The Southampton center back underwent a tumultuous season at St. Mary’s, but is one of several experienced Japanese backs in the fold for Russia.


Manager: Akira Nishino – Twelve times capped by Japan, the 63-year-old former Vissel Kobe and Nagoya Grampus Eight boss gets his first chance to shine at a World Cup.


Secret weapon: Shinji Okazaki — It may seem goofy to label a Premier League striker with 50 international goals as Japan’s secret weapon, but Leicester City’s bench spark plug has a similar role at this stage of his career for the Samurai Blue. He’s the third all-time goal scorer in Japanese history, though goals have been few and far between for Okazaki since 2016.


Prediction: Fourth in a very good group.

Stoppage time heartbreak for Saints at Goodison

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  • Redmond scores first of season
  • Deflected equalizer in stoppage time
  • Saints move to 17th
  • Everton remains 8th

Everton’s Tom Davies scored in the fifth of four minutes of stoppage time to claim a 1-1 draw with Southampton on Saturday at Goodison Park.

Nathan Redmond‘s second half goal still pushed Saints out of the drop zone and into 17th place, level with Swans and two points behind Huddersfield. Southampton is away to Swansea on Tuesday (Watch live at 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Everton stays eighth with 49 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Jordan Pickford made an outstanding save on Charlie Austin as the match neared the 20 minutes.

Saints looked the better bet to score despite their status as visitors, but didn’t get their goal until the second half.

Cedric crossed from the right, and Redmond nodded between the legs of Pickford to give Saints their lead.

Saints went down a man when Maya Yoshida picked up a second yellow card with five minutes to play.

Pickford made a nice save on Redmond in the final stanza.

Alex McCarthy made an amazing save on Leighton Baines‘ late free kick… but then Davies arrived to grab a point.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Sneaky good: Early “stars” of the Premier League

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I have a “smell test” for players who leap off the pitch when taking the eyeball test during Premier League play.

If, upon moving to advanced statistics sites for performance reviews, these players are still shining, then there’s a good chance they are as important to their club as it seems at first blush

[ MORE: Stats of Premier League wkend ]

Of course guys like Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba, Kevin De Bruyne, and Sergio Aguero are going to pass muster. But what about some guys a bit off the radar?

Are there names the numbers say we should be watching a bit more closely, so it’s not a surprise when guys like Idrissa Gana Gueye or Sam Clucas net surprising transfer fees or international acclaim?

It seems logical, and we’ve to a pair of sites which use different algorithms to rank Premier League players and saw who turned up high in both…

Lukasz Fabianski, Swansea City
WhoScored: 37th
Squawka: 1st

Paul Clement‘s side sits 14th with only two goals scored, which is possible when your backstop doesn’t allow much to beat him. Fabianski was outstanding as Swans held Spurs scoreless this weekend.

Ben Davies, Tottenham Hotspur
WhoScored: 15th
Squawka: 16th

The 24-year-old defender is averaged 3.3 key passes per game, better than everyone in the league not named Mesut Ozil, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. They aren’t defenders.

Maya Yoshida, Southampton
WhoScored: 56th
Squawka: 14th

Playing behind Oriol Romeu — and without Virgil Van Dijk — Yoshida has a goal to go with his six clearances and 3.8 aerials won per game

Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Crystal Palace
WhoScored: 22nd
Squawka: 26th

The on-loan Chelsea man was wanted by Rafa Benitez at Newcastle and a number of other locations, and has thrived despite only appearing in three matches and being on a troubled team. He’s averaged 4.7 dribbles a game and has been fouled 4.3 times per match.

Christopher Schindler and Aaron Mooy, Huddersfield Town
WhoScored: 10th (CS), 14th (AM)
Squawka: 24th (CS), 37th (AM)

It’s possible that Town has just been an analytics darling, as Steve Mounie and Laurent Depoitre also have good marks, but the Terriers have conceded just three times this season in front of Jonas Lossl. These two are a big part of the limited chances faced by the keeper, and Mooy has been holding it down for a continent the last two years.

Nicolas Otamendi, Manchester City
WhoScored: 11th
Squawka: 4th

His goal this weekend shows his capacity in the final third, but Otamendi has been a steady part of the defense as Pep Guardiola sorted out mercurial youngster John Stones and dealt with the health of Vincent Kompany.

Jamaal Lascelles, Newcastle United
WhoScored: 35th
Squawka: 49th

His numbers may be tilted by a pair of match-winning goals for high-flying Newcastle, but the big man had to get in the box to get them.

Southampton 1-0 West Ham: Yoshida, Saints overcome Wanyama red

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  • Yoshida strikes early
  • Wanyama sent off for third time this season
  • Another clean sheet for Forster

Maya Yoshida‘s early goal held up despite Saints playing with 10 men for nearly 40 minutes, and Southampton beat visiting West Ham United 1-0 at St. Mary’s on Saturday.

Victor Wanyama took a straight red card for cleaning out Dimitri Payet, but Saints closed down the Hammers to move with two points of the visitors’ sixth place in the Premier League table.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Adrian made sure Saints couldn’t take an early lead as he got vertical to stop Cedric‘s eighth minute header.

He couldn’t stop Yoshida, though, who ran to the door step to finish off a good bit of combination play and suspect West Ham spacing.

Fraser Forster kept up his hot play when he two-handed Winston Reid‘s header of a Payet free kick. A corner kick followed, but merely produced a Saints counter.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Mark Noble slipped Enner Valencia through early in the second half, but a low shot spun right to Forster.

Then Wanyama lost his head, and picked up a straight red card for a sliding through Payet. It was the second-straight fixture between the sides that saw referee Mark Clattenburg send Wanyama off.

Reid and Collins were confused on a Forster goal kick, allowing Shane Long to put a shot over the goal.

An absolutely gorgeous dribble from Oriel Romeu freed up Charlie Austin for a chance to salt it away in the 88th minute, but Austin’s blast flew past the goal.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

League Cup & QF draw: Man United go out on PKs; City, Liverpool advance

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Tuesday was something of the “Premier League wedding” in League Cup Round of 16 action, as PL sides Arsenal, Chelsea and Leicester City were all knocked out by (purportedly) lesser sides.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

On Wednesday, the other four Round of 16 ties restored a bit of order, as Manchester City, Liverpool and Southampton all advanced to the quarterfinal round, though Manchester United fell to Middlesbrough, the only remaining non-PL side.

Man United and Boro played to a scoreless draw over 120 minutes, which sent the last remaining game of the round to penalty kicks at Old Trafford. Wayne Rooney saw his attempt, United’s first, saved. Andreas Pereira converted United’s next attempt to level the sides at 1-for-2, but Michael Carrick followed up with a missed attempt, and Ashley Young hit the post on United’s fourth attempt, while Boro converted their next two to win 3-1.

Man City hammered fellow PL side Crystal Palace, 5-1 at the Etihad Stadium, with Manuel Pellegrini opting for a mixed lineup of first-team and reserve players, including Wilfried Bony, Yaya Toure, Kevin De Bruyne, Fernando, Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov. Bony, De Bruyne and Toure all got their names on the scoresheet once, as did 19-year-old Kelechi Iheanacho, who scored the late winner against Palace in league play earlier this year, and 17-year-old Manu Garcia.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s League Cup roundup ]

35 miles to the west, at Anfield, Jurgen Klopp was busy picking up his first victory as Liverpool manager, a 1-0 victory over fellow PL side Bournemouth, thanks to Nathaniel Clyne‘s 17th-minute goal. Klopp went with a mostly reserve lineup against the Cherries, selecting only Clyne and Dejan Lovren from the regular first-team rotation.

Southampton advanced to the quarters with a 2-1 victory over a floundering, (permanent) manager-less Aston Villa at St Mary’s Stadium. Maya Yoshida put the hosts on top in the 51st minute and Graziano Pelle doubled the lead 26 minutes later, before Scott Sinclair pulled a goal back from the penalty spot in the 90th minute.

QUARTERFINAL DRAW

Middlesbrough vs. Everton
Southampton vs. Liverpool
Stoke City vs. Sheffield Wednesday
Man City vs. Hull City

FINAL

Manchester United 0-0 (1-3 PKs) Middlesbrough
Manchester City 5-1 Crystal Palace
Liverpool 1-0 Bournemouth
Southampton 2-1 Aston Villa