AFC Asian Cup
In the past 25 years, Japan have routinely beaten the best Asia has to offer in the region’s premier tournament.
The Blue Samurai defeated Saudi Arabia, the then defending champions, in the AFC Asian Cup final in 1992 and 2000, beat hosts China for trophy number three in front of a hostile Beijing crowd in 2004, and then pipped 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 of the quarter-final stage of the AFC Asian Cup by Japan in 2007, and then again in the 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 will ensure it will make it an immensely tough proposition for any side standing between Japan and a fifth Asian championship.
Asian Cup lead-up: After failing to claim a win at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the Blue Samurai will be hoping to bring a fresh run of form to Australia.
Javier Aguirre’s men will host clashes with South American sides Uruguay and Venezuela as their final practice matches before arriving in Australia hoping to retain their title.
Coach: The recent appointment of Javier Aguirre (Mexico) to the coaching role outlines Japan’s intentions to defend their Asian Cup crown. Having had a successful career at the help of Spanish clubs Osasuna and Atletico Madrid and his native Mexico, 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: 45
Ranking among Asian nations: 1
Year of first attempt: 1988
Previous attempts: seven
Best finish: champion 1992, 2000, 2004 and 2011
Qualified: automatically as defending champion
Players to watch: Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow, Russia), Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United, England), 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
Kagawa made the move to Europe in 2010 where he played for Borussia Dortmund before being signed by current club Manchester United.
He will be hoping to lead Japan to success in Australia after missing the Blue Samurai’s 2011 Asian Cup final victory after being injured in the semi-final.