It wasn't until the 1998 FIFA World Cup France that Japan had qualified for the first time to the main event of world football. But from there on, the national team has shown consistency, hasn't lost a step and qualified to all the tournament that took place.
Just four years earlier, Japan's national team reached one of its lowest points with the "Agony of Doha". While trying to qualify for the 1994 FIFA World Cup USA, Japan played in Doha, Qatar, against Iraq in the last game of the qualification stage. It was winner takes it all. Japan was aware that only a win (or even a draw if South Korea and Saudi Arabia will lose in their own matches) will give them the desired ticket. Well, the team drew, South Korea and Saudi Arabia won. The dream had to wait four more years.
Japan's national football team is one of the most enthusiastic teams in Asia. The players enjoy an amazing wave of boost, seems to be coming from every Japanese fan, who comes to support their team and follow the players very closely, travelling around the continent and showing up in big numbers almost in every foreign stadium they play in, let alone on home soil. There, the atmosphere really gets electric.
Team japan, let alone the whole country, knew a peak in 2002, when it hosted the FIFA World Cup jointly with South Korea. In that tournament, the team reached its greatest achievement in reaching the stage of last 16, after wins over Russia and Tunisia.
Team japan, who plays in red, blue and white uniforms. has several nicknames: Nippon Daihyō, Daihyō and Samurai Blue.
In 2010, Japan Football Association decided to the take a turn in traditional thought and named Italian Alberto Zaccheroni as head coach, after Zaccheroni had stints at Milan, Inter and Juventus. Zaccheroni tried to install tactics and the principals of the Italian football in the Japanese players, who used to play a more street style kind of football, lacking discipline whatsoever. After a tough beginning, Zaccheroni's efforts bore fruits as the team embraced the new style.
Zaccheroni was replaced by Vahlid Hallihodzic, one of the most decorated players of the former Yugoslavia during the 70's and the 80's.
Yasuhito Endō is the most capped Japanese player with 152 appearances, while former player Kunishige Kamamoto is the top goal scorer with 80 goals in 84 appearances.
Japan's stars are all playing in Europe's top leagues. Shinji Kagawa of Borussia Dortmund is the Bundesliga's all time Japanese top scorer, while Shinji Okazaki has won the Premier League title with Leicester City in the 2015-16 season. Other notable players include Maya YoshidaTakuma Asano of Stuttgart, Makoto Hasebe of Eintracht Frankfurt and Inter's Yuto Nagatomo.
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