Over the past 25 years, Japan have routinely beaten the best Asia has to offer in the continent’s premier tournament.
The Samurai Blue defeated defending champions Saudi Arabia to win their first Asian Cup in 1992 and again took the title from the Saudis eight years later in Lebanon. Trophy number three came when Japan successfully defended their crown in 2004 with victory over hosts China in front of a hostile Beijing crowd before edging Australia in 2011 for a record fourth title.
AFC Asian Cup hosts Australia will know only too well about the potency of their line-up. The Socceroos were knocked out at the quarter-final stage in 2007 before Japan sunk the Socceroos in 2011 final, thanks to a spectacular volley by substitute striker Tadanari Lee in extra-time.
The man to make that decision to bring Lee on, long-time coach Alberto Zaccheroni, departed following the 2014 World Cup leaving the Japanese to regroup ahead of taking on Asia's best Down Under.
However, even with a new coach at the helm, having the likes of superstars Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa running the midfield and the red hot Shinji Okazaki up front will ensure it will make it an immensely tough proposition for any side standing between Japan and a fifth Asian championship.
Japan 23-man AFC Asian Cup squad here
Asian Cup lead-up: After a lacklustre 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign, Japan have experienced a host of successful results.
Despite going down to Brazil in a resounding 6-0 defeat, the Samurai Blue recorded victories over Venezuela (3-0), Jamaica (1-0), Honduras (6-0) and Australia (2-1). They continued their winning ways when they arrived in Australia, defeating 2014 FIFA World Club Cup semi-finalists Auckland City (2-0) and Northern NSW National Premier Leagues outfit Lambton Jaffas (7-0).
Coach - Javier Aguirre (MEX): Javier Aguirre took over as head coach of Japan following the resignation of Alberto Zaccheroni after the 2014 World Cup. Aguirre had significant success in Mexico where he was twice head coach of the national team, winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2009, and also claimed a Mexican league title with Pachuca. He has also spent just under a decade coaching in Spain with club sides Osasuna, Zaragoza and most recently Espanyol. The attacking-minded coach will hope to inspire the Samurai Blue side to play a hard and fast style of football.
Population: 128 million
FIFA ranking: 54
Ranking among Asian nations: 2
Year of first attempt: 1988
Previous attempts: 7
Best finish: Champions (1992, 2000, 2004 and 2011)
Qualified: Automatically as defending champion
Players to watch: Keisuke Honda (AC Milan, Italy), Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Shinji Okazaki (Mainz 05, Germany), Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan, Italy)
- Tournaments Played7
- Best Performance1st (2011)
- Last Position (2011)1st
- Number of Top 4 Finishes5
Games Played 37Won 21Draw 11Lost 5
Goals For 72Goals Against 37
The diminutive striker is one of Japan’s most prominent footballing exports, currently playing for FSV Mainz in the German Bundesliga.
Okazaki was named in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup Team of the Tournament and has scored 40 goals for Samurai Blue.
Kagawa made the move to Europe in 2010 and where he has lined up for Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United.
He will be hoping to lead Japan to success in Australia after missing the Blue Samurai’s 2011 AFC Asian Cup final victory after being injured in the semi-final.