Preview: Japan is entering the World Cup with it's third consecutive appearance since they began participation in 1998.  They are also coming off back to back Asian titles in 2000 and 2004.  The team's greatest strength is the quality of it's midfield, which included internationally renown players Shunsuke Nakamura, Hidetoshi Nakata, and Shinji Ono.

Despite a lot of the positive momentum, coach Zico remains concerned about the team's offense as Japan has struggled to score in recent competition.  They managed only 9 goals in 5 qualifying matches against relatively weak competition. Zico's attempt to shake things up included the selection of striker Seiichiro Maki, which surprised everyone back home in Japan, but Naohiro Takahara and Atsushi Yanagisawa will likely get the starting nod due to their experience.   "You can't simply create players whose job it is to score goals," said the frustrated coach, who has been to the World Cup 3 times as a Brazilian international.

Result: Japan took the surprise early lead against Brazil, before losing 4-1 in the end, and were the only team besides France to score against the tournament favorites.  Their point against Croatia will serve as consolation as Japan looks forward to the 2010 World Cup.