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Takeshi Okada

star players:
Hidetoshi Nakata
Masami Ihara
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World Cup Pedigree

Sunday, May 3, 1998 Published at 18:48 GMT 19:48 UK

Teams | Japan | Players
The Japan Squad
image: [ The Japan team ]
The Japan team
Japan, in their first World Cup finals, are pinning all their hopes on golden boy Hidetoshi Nakata.

The 21-year-old midfielder has sent shockwaves across the football world since making his debut and is renowned for his curled free kick, perfected from videos of Diego Maradona and Roberto Baggio.

Nakata should be joined by the experienced Hiroshi Nanami, with Motohiro Yamaguchi providing the strength at the back of midfield.

Sweeper Masami Ihara, Japan's most capped player, Naoki Soma and Kashima Antlers team-mate Yutaka Akita make up the defence.

Akira Narahashi should be first-choice on the right but is up against tough opposition from utility defender Tadashi Nakamura. Toshihide Saito has settled in well in the centre of defence and it is unlikely that coach Takeshi Okada will leave him out.

Jubilo Iwata striker Masashi Nakayama has gone goal mad over the past few months, breaking J-League records, and must be a certainty for France, alongside the fastest player in the team, Masayuki Okano.

Brazilian-born Wagner Lopes and Shoji Jo are on the fringes. Veteran Kazuyoshi Miura has struggled to keep his place in the national side, but his experience should carry him through.

Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, 22, is likely to retain his place from the qualifiers as Japan's first-choice goalkeeper, with the more experienced Nobuyuki Kojima in reserve.

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Takeshi Okada - Japan manager

Hidetoshi Nakata

The Japan Squad