LIVESTREAM IFAF World Junior Championship: Team Japan vs Team Australia, June 23, 00:00 CET (12 midnight, 6 pm June 22 EDT)

In a matchup between the two countries that logged the most travel miles between them to arrive in Edmonton, Team Japan and Team Australia square off in the opening round of the 2024 IFAF U20 World Junior Championship.

The last time these nations met it was two-time bronze medalist Japan who won the battle for a fifth-place finish over Australia at the 2018 tournament in Mexico.

Along with Canada and the United States, Japan has participated at every IFAF World Junior Championship, finishing third in Canton, Ohio, in 2009 with a 42-27 win over Mexico and again in 2012 by beating Austria 7-0.

The Japanese sidelines will feature a familiar figure in head coach Makoto Ohashi who returns to take charge of his nation’s U20 squad, as he did in 2018 in Mexico, having been the assistant head coach two years earlier in China.

Ohashi played football for the Tokyo Metropolitan Nishi High School Owls then with the Waseda University Big Bears and Recruit Seagulls, becoming the Seagulls’ head coach in 2000. He led the team to national championships six times, including four consecutive victories from 2010 to 2013.

“I want to fully demonstrate our team’s characteristics and win this tournament,” he said. “It is necessary to acquire the stamina to continue demonstrating speed and quickness until the end of the game, increase the amount of exercise until the very end, and fight in a way that allows the opponent to be at our mercy.”

Watch live. Team Japan vs Team Australia, June 23, 00:00 CET (12 midnight, 6 pm June 22 EDT)

In prior IFAF World Junior Championships, Australia have participated twice, winning two games against hosts China by scores of 72-0 and 74-0 in 2016. Last time around in Mexico in 2018 the Outback squad lost 39-0 to USA, suffered a close 19-6 defeat to Sweden and went down 51-14 to Japan.

Australia have traveled further than any nation to join the party, some 13,000 kilometers, after head coach Mitch Woellner only recently stepped up to take on the role of head coach having originally been recruited as Australia’s defensive coordinator.

“We’re under no illusions that we’re regarded as an underdog and our view is that we’re working hard to improve,” said Woellner. “The expectation is that we can have the capacity to compete at this level and the focus for us is to develop fundamentally sound footballers and put them in situations where they’re going to be able to flourish.”

“I think going into a tournament like this there’s – I don’t even want to say disparity between teams – but there’s some unknowns between teams. So, you can’t just go in there and say we’ve got to win every single game or that we’ve got to come back as champions. Obviously, every team wants that, but you’ve got to go in there with some kind of goals that are right for the players and the program as a whole and for what this can do for gridiron in Australia.”

Watch live. Team Japan vs Team Australia, June 23, 00:00 CET (12 midnight, 6 pm June 22 EDT)

Michael Preston (@PRMikePreston) is currently working with IFAF in a PR capacity. He recently covered Super Bowl LVII as a member of the NFL PR team as he has done for 20+ years. He has held communications positions with NFL Europe, the North