Japan have never won a World Cup match on foreign soil and will struggle to break that sequence in South Africa. Their unpopular coach, Takeshi Okada, opened himself up to ridicule with the ambitious claim that Japan are targeting a semi-final spot. They will be lucky to get out of a group that pits them against the Netherlands, Denmark and Cameroon, who are all ranked higher than them.
Japan were poor at the East Asian Championships in February, and even worse in a 3-0 drubbing by Serbia in April. But despite the doom and gloom in Japan, there is some cause for optimism. Keisuke Honda has been in fantastic form for CSKA Moscow, while reigning Asian Player of the Year Yasuhito Endo and Wolfsburg's Makoto Hasebe add genuine quality in midfield.
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