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Takumi Minamino edges closer to World Cup spot with Japan victory

Japan are two wins away from a place at the 2022 World Cup, having taken a step closer to securing a spot as Takumi Minamino started in Thursday’s 2-0 win over China.

China were visitors to Saitama, and Minamino made his 29th start for his country as part of a depleted side – without the injured duo of Maya Yoshida and Takehiro Tomiyasu, who form half of Japan’s first-choice defence.

The 27-year-old took his place on the left wing, with Junya Ito on the right and Yuya Osako up front, while Ao Tanaka and Hidemasa Morita provided support from midfield.

Minamino’s side dominated throughout, with 63 percent of possession, 16 shots on goal to China’s two and 11 corners to their one, with a 2-0 victory the result.

Osako put Japan a goal up from the spot after only 13 minutes, the Vissel Kobe striker stepping up to convert after being fouled in the box, while Ito sealed the win as he headed home Yuta Nakayama’s cross after the break.

Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu withdrew Minamino after 85 minutes, with the result already secured.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 16, 2022: Liverpool's Takumi Minamino during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brentford FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A win kept Japan second in their AFC qualifying group, staying a point in front of Australia despite their 4-0 thrashing of Vietnam, and a point behind Saudi Arabia ahead of their clash with Oman.

Regardless of Saudi Arabia’s result on Thursday evening, Japan know they can book their place at Qatar 2022 if they win their next two qualifiers.

That is because they come up against Saudi Arabia (February 1) and Australia (March 24) in those two ties, while their final game of Group B sees them face Vietnam (March 29).

Beat both of their closest rivals and Japan are guaranteed at least second in the group, with the top two spots clinching progress to the World Cup – while finishing third ensures a place in the fourth round of qualifiers.

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