Having never won a World Cup match outside of Asia, you could be forgiven for not tipping Japan to go very far at South Africa 2010. The only time that they have made any impression on the tournament was when they were co-hosts along with South Korea in 2002. On that occasion, the team advanced to the second round with victories over Russia and Tunisia along with a draw to Belgium. However, their dream was ended in round two with a 1-0 defeat to Turkey.
Manager Takeshi Okada oversaw an impressive qualification campaign that saw them ease to second place in their group. However, he will face a much sterner test in this group stage with the dangerous Netherlands alongside competent teams in Denmark and Cameroon. If they are to have any chance of progressing, Japan will need to beat the unpredictable Cameroon in their opening match. They will then look to avoid defeat against Denmark in the final group match which may just be enough to secure an unexpected qualification.
The majority of the Japanese squad is majorly unknown to supporters based in Europe. However, players such as Shunsuke Nakamura and Makoto Hasebe are two of the few that play in Europe. Below is a shortlist of players that the Japanese manager is likely to pick from.
Marcus Tulio Tanaka
The Japanese are not expected to make any impact at all going into the 2010 World Cup and that’s hardly surprising considering the lack of players that play in the top european leagues. The nation has an outside chance of qualifying from the group in 2nd place. However, the most realistic outcome is that they won’t progress beyond the group stage.