The Japan national football team smoothly passed the qualifier and confidently ahead of schedule was qualified from the first place in Group B of the Asian part of the qualifying tournament being one point clear of the Australia and Saudi Arabia.
For the fifth time in its history Japan is selected to the World Cup. The first trip of the team to the main tournament of national teams took place in 1998. Such late appearance of Japan on the top level can be explained by the fact that for a long in this country there was only amateur football. In the early nineties Japan created its first professional football league (J-League) which became a kick start for development of football in the country, and since 1998 the Japan national football team have missed no World Cup.
In 1998 on the debut for them FIFA World Cup, Samurais lost all three matches and scored only one goal into the net of Jamaica. But already four years later on their home World Cup, with whole-hearted support of the public, the Japanese could both win the first victory within the World Cups and get qualified to the round of last 16. At the group stage, the hosts of the tournament won the Russia and Tunisia national football teams, drew with Belgium and went to the playoff from the first place in the group. In the round of last 16 the Japan national football team played against the Turkish national team and was considered as the favorite in that match. However, Samurais missed an offensive goal in the debut game and were not able to retrieve.
Eight years later at the World Cup in the Republic of South Africa the Japanese could reach the round of last 16 again. Having got into a rather complex group together with the teams of the Netherlands, Denmark and Cameroon, the Japan national football team managed to win twice and to occupy the second place in the group. In the round of last 16 the Asian team stood against a quite passable opponent — the Paraguay national football team. But again, like eight years ago, the Japanese lacked their luck. After 120 scoreless minutes, the Japan gave way to the Paraguay national football team in a penalty shootout and left the tournament.
The Japan national football team performed brilliantly at the home Confederations Cup 2001. Samurais, thanks to their perfect defense, managed to reach the tournament final having missed only one goal in five matches. At the group stage the hosts beat the teams of Canada and Cameroon and also kept a goalless draw against Brazil. In the tournament semi-final, with the minimum score, they won from the Australia national football team and only in the tournament final, having missed the tournament first goal, they lost to the World Cup Champions in force for that time.
Three times the Japan national team managed to obtain success at the Asian Cup. All three victories in the tournament fell on the period of the Japanese football rise after the J-League formation. The first victory was in 1992 at the home Asian Cup. The second and third ones — in the tournaments 2000 and 2004. However, at the last three Cups Japan couldn't get to the three prize-winners.
The Japanese squad is by half presented by players of the European clubs which is not quite typical for the European national football teams. The captain Keisuke Honda is performing at the Liga MX now, but he is known first of all for his play for the Russian CSKA and Milan. The main star of the Japanese national team Shinji Kagawa is the key player of German Borussia Dortmund and earlier played for Manchester United. The top scorer of the team Shinji Okazaki represents the English club Leicester.
Despite the strong composition, it is difficult to expect from the Japan national football team a successful performance. Unfortunately, the Japanese accustomed us that in decisive matches of world championships they cannot show their best qualities.