World Cup Profile: Japan


Our focus on Group C began with a look at African hopefuls Ivory Coast and rising South American outfit Colombia, and now we take a peek at Asian heavyweights Japan.

READ: World Cup Profile: Colombia

Japan were the first team to qualify for this year’s FIFA World Cup. However, regional opposition was not exactly taxing compared to what they will face in Brazil, and the Samurai Blues will need to step up a notch in order to improve on their Round of 16 exit four years ago.

Qualification: W 8, D 3, L 3

Previous World Cup appearances: 4

Best World Cup finish: Round of 16 (2002, 2010)

Current FIFA ranking: 46

Coach: Under tactician Alberto Zaccheroni, the Japanese employ a distinctly Italian approach as the experienced coach brought about defensive stability to a team known for a leaky defence. The veteran has been at the helm for four years and is confident of a good showing in Brazil.

Captain: Respected Nurnberg midfielder Makuto Hasebe is the man with the armband for Japan, having been part of the team for the past eight years. He skippered the side in their last World Cup appearance in South Africa, while also leading Japan to Asian Cup success in 2011.

Key player: Talented midfielder Keisuke Honda is an integral member of the Japanese national team, bringing with him a wealth of experience from playing his club football across Europe.

A dead-ball specialist, Honda is renowned for his trickery and pace, as well as his ability to beat defenders in one-on-one situations. His accurate passes and ability to open up space and create chances for strikers ensures an endless supply of quality feed for his fellow team mates to finish.

The versatile AC Milan midfielder has been described as a ‘false nine’, able to play in attacking midfield or as a second striker or deep-lying playmaker.

Honda was Japan’s star player at the Fifa World Cup in 2010, earning three Man of the Match performances in the four matches in which he featured. His solitary goal against Cameroon in their opening fixture was the country’s first World Cup goal scored on foreign soil.

The 2010 Japanese Player of the Year then went on to help his country win the 2011 Asian Cup, where he was voted as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Coach Alberto Zaccheroni will be looking for more of the same from his star player at this year’s Mundial.

Check out the full Japanese squad on’s all-new World Cup site.

Key fixture: Japan will back themselves for victory in their opening game against Ivory Coast to get their Mundial off to a good start.

All fixtures

15 June, 03:00          Ivory Coast vs Japan

20 June, 00:00          Japan vs Greece

24 June, 22:00          Japan vs Colombia

Don’t miss the current edition of KICKOFF magazine for 16 pages of World Cup analysis, plus TWO World Cup wall charts, so you can follow every game of the world showpiece. 

ALSO READ: World Cup Profile: Ivory Coast

Be sure to continue logging on to for profiles and news on all the teams at this year’s FIFA World Cup, as well as a daily expose on an emerging star that could rise at this year’s tournament.