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Last World Cup: Round of 16
Nickname: Samurai Blue
Coach: Alberto Zaccheroni
Star man: Keisuke Honda
Tournament best: Last 16 2002, 2010

Stormed to qualification in their pool and Zaccheroni has moulded them into a strong squad, but three defeats out of three at the Confederations Cup last summer leaves them open to question about their top-level credentials.

Strengths: Japan's main threat in qualifying was from the air: the 30% of goals they scored from headers was the 7th highest proportion of the 32 finalists. Many of their aerial deliveries arrived from the wings which they used to great effect in creating one of the highest percentages of close range goals.

Weaknesses: Goalscoring more generally was somewhat of a problem, with only 36% of their matches seeing them score more than once, the fourth lowest of the 32 finalists. Scoring late in matches also proved difficult. At the back they were vulnerable to attack from the wings and struggled to keep teams out of their six yard box.

Prospects: This group is a challenging one for Japan and they'll have to make the most of their chances. Greece have occasionally looked vulnerable from the air, so their header-based strategy could well pay off. The wings haven't yielded many goals against either Greece or the Ivory Coast though, so delivering sufficient ammunition may prove problematic.