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Japan

Japan

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Team Profile: Japan

GettyImagesCo-hosts Japan made the second round in 2002

Appearances at finals:
1998 - First round
2002 - Second round
2006 - First round

Overall record at finals: Played 10, Won 2, Drawn 2, Lost 6.

Best performance: Second round in 2002.

Most appearances at finals: Hidetoshi Nakata (1998, 2002, 2006) - 10.

Most goals at finals: Junichi Inamoto (2002) - 2.

World Cup high: Junichi Inamoto's goal to fire Japan to a 1-0 victory over Russia in front of over 60,000 fans in their home tournament in 2002.

World Cup low: Crashing out at the hands of Turkey in the second round in 2002 while rivals and co-hosts South Korea went on to make the semi-finals.

World Cup legend: Hidetoshi Nakata played in every match for Japan at their first three World Cups and the iconic midfielder helped bring Japanese football onto the world stage.

The story so far: Japanese football underwent a renaissance in the early 90s with the launch of the professional J-League, and the national team came within one minute of qualifying for USA 1994. Despite that disappointment, Japanese football improved markedly on the back of the new league and Japan has competed in every World Cup finals since as a true powerhouse of the Asian confederation.

Wedged between first round exits in 1998 and 2006 came Japan's best result, a second round appearance on home soil as part of the 2002 tournament joint-hosted with South Korea.

Qualification: After coach Ivica Osim suffered a stroke in late 2007, the Japanese FA handed the reins to Takeshi Okada, the man who guided the team through France 1998. A more mature Okada led Japan to a fairly straightforward qualification, although he came in for criticism at times from an increasingly demanding Japanese media for the team's lack of goals. Being grouped with Australia in the final stage helped Japan, given the other three teams struggled to pick up points.

Qualifying record (final group stage): P8, W4, D3, L1, F11, A6, Pts15.

Most appearances: Marcus Tulio Tanaka (8).

Top goalscorer: Keiji Tamada, Marcus Tulio Tanaka, Shunsuke Nakamura (2).