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Last Updated: Monday, 22 May 2006, 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK
Japan team guide

A one-stop guide to all you need to know about Japan ahead of the 2006 World Cup.

Fixtures (Group F):

  • v Australia - 12 June, 1400 BST, Kaiserslautern
  • v Croatia - 18 June, 1400 BST, Nuremberg
  • v Brazil - 22 June, 2000 BST, Dortmund

    How did they get to Germany: Through two group stages. They finished top of their final qualifying group, but on the way scraped lucky last-minute wins over Oman and North Korea.

    Qualifying star: Stars, not star. The centre-half pairing of Gamba Osaka's Tsuneyasu Miyamoto and Yuji Nakazawa was solid throughout.

    Manager: The public called for Zico's head during an uninspiring qualification campaign. The Brazilian, 53, benefited from those fortunate late victories and is also lucky to be employed by an association who probably could not bring themselves to fire the football legend.

    Tsuneyasu Miyamoto

    Captain: Centre-back Miyamoto is an elegant player, excellent reader of the game and, according to his squealing fan club at national team games, ravishingly handsome to boot.

    World Cup pedigree: They qualified for the first time in 1998 and then as hosts in 2002. In 1998 they lost all three group matches but in 2002 they went out to Turkey in the second round. There are definite signs of progress.

    World Cup high: Beating Russia 1-0 in the group stages last time. The Russians were rubbish, but the win still gave Japan confidence they could play with the big boys.

    World Cup low: Losing 1-0 to Turkey in 2002. French coach Philippe Troussier lost his marbles and dropped strike duo Takayuki Suzuki and Atsushi Yanagisawa. Akinori Nishizawa - who had not played in the tournament - was chosen as it was his birthday, if you believe the rumours.

    World Cup legend: The coach is the closest Japan has to the accolade.

    Shunsuke Nakamura
    Present star man: Urawa Reds' Shinji Ono may be the best all-round player and Bolton's Hidetoshi Nakata remains the star attraction, but it could be the turn of Celtic's Shunsuke Nakamura to take centre stage if he can maintain the impressive form he has shown during his first season in Scottish football.

    Strengths: The Nakata-Nakamura-Ono triumvirate makes up Asia's best midfield and if you throw in West Brom's Junichi Inamoto things begin to look rosy...

    Weaknesses: ...until we get to the strikers. Zico usually plumps for Yanagisawa - when fit - and Eintracht Frankfurt-bound Naohiro Takahara, AKA "Der Sushi Bomber". Their respective club coaches usually don't.

    Did you know: During France 1998, the stadium authorities were astonished to find the Japan fans' seating area cleaner after a game than before. On the final whistle, the fans had picked up all the rubbish they could find before depositing it in the bins by the exit.

    World ranking: 18

    Odds: 200/1

    Local view: "They've not really improved since Troussier's reign. Japan's chances depend on strikers Takahara and Yanagisawa weighing in with the goals. A gallant loss in the second round should satisfy the Japanese." James Mulligan, Japan Times.

    Our verdict: There is plenty of talent but they will need more than that if they are to progress past the opening round. Unlikely to figure in the knockout stages.

    Ranking and odds correct at 22 May. Odds supplied by William Hill.


    Pick your Japan XI
    16 May 06 |  Squad selectors
    Country profile: Japan
    13 Sep 05 |  Country profiles


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