Japan vs Myanmar
Panasonic Stadium Suita forms the backdrop for Japan’s opening 2026 World Cup qualifying clash against minnows Myanmar.
Japan’s bid to advance to their eighth successive World Cup following a heartbreaking last-16 exit at the hands of Croatia at ‘Qatar 2022’ commences against a Myanmar side they thrashed 10-0 in May 2021 en route to booking a place at the previous tournament. Anything other than another thumping victory would be a massive surprise, especially looking at Japan’s formidable form in the lead-up to this encounter (W5). Peru, Germany, Turkey, Canada, and Tunisia were on the receiving end of the Japanese’s outrageous form, with Hajime Moriyasu’s side winning each contest via multi-goal margins. Moreover, the ‘Samurai Blue’ had capped off their last World Cup qualifying campaign on a high, mustering three straight home victories by a combined score of 6-1 before sharing the spoils with Vietnam in a 1-1 draw.
On the other hand, Myanmar overcame Macau in the first-round playoffs 5-1 on aggregate, courtesy of an emphatic home win in the first leg before drawing 0-0 in the return fixture. However, whether they can reach their first World Cup finals is open for debate, considering they’ve lost 62.5% of their qualifying matches (W6, D3, L15). Erasing memories of a catastrophic qualifying campaign for the last tournament won’t be simple, as Myanmar conceded a whopping 35 goals in eight second-round outings (W2, L6) to finish bottom of their group, which featured Japan as section winners. If it’s any consolation, after losing three of their opening four internationals in 2023 (D1), the visitors have gone unbeaten in their last five on the trot (W3, D2), racking up four clean sheets in the process.