Having stormed into the last four at the Olympic Football Tournament at London 2012, Japan's hopes of building on their semi-finalists performances are predictably high. The group draw results may, however, suggest differently with the young Samurai Blue pitted against Colombia, former gold-medallist Nigeria and reigning European champions Sweden.
For any team, these would be tough assignments with even Japan head coach Makoto Teguramori acknowledging that they are placed in a difficult group. Yet young forward Yuya Kubo dares to differ as he sets his sights on clinching a medal despite the daunting tasks facing them.
"There are no easy matches when you play in a top-level international competition (like the Olympic Games)," the 22-year-old BSC Young Boys striker told FIFA.com in a recent exclusive interview. "Every team is strong. But (despite this) I think that we can achieve a better result than four years ago."
Kubo may be forgiven for aiming to better their record bronze medal achievement at Mexico 1968. Indeed, the predator's confidence was fuelled by their all-conquering qualifying campaign during which he finished as the team's top scorer with three goals as his side progressed to Rio 2016 as Asian champions.
Kubo completed a brace in Japan's 4-0 rout of Thailand during the group phase, before opening the scoring against Iraq in the all-important semi-final showdown to set his side on the path to a 2-1 win and Olympic qualification.
"The Iraq game was memorable for me," recalled Kubo, who has racked up 19 goals in 87 appearances for Young Boys since moving to the Swiss Super League side from Kyoto Sanga in 2013. "The match remains vivid still today because I scored and helped my team get to the Olympic Games."
Aside from his brilliant individual displays, it was the team's never-say-die spirit at the AFC U-23 Championship that provides him with more confidence. Kubo and Co improved game after game en route to the final and their resolve and willpower could not be better showcased than in the tournament's ultimate game against Korea Republic when they came from two goals down to prevail 3-2.
"It was a hard match," Kubo said. "I think that we managed to find the way to reverse the scoreline. It was a game which taught us that in football anything is possible."
A product of his hometown club FC Yamaguchi, Kubo developed his game at Konan Junior High School before being signed by Kyoto Sanga as a teenager. After spending a couple of years honing his skills with the reserve side, he graduated to the first team in 2011 with which he quickly made a name for himself. In fact, the progress he made was such that he proved to be a key player as Sanga reached the 2011 Emperor's Cup Final.
His form with the Japanese second-division side did not go unnoticed as he was swooped by Young Boys three years ago. Kubo believes he has made several improvements since he joined the Swiss club.
"I feel that I have improved a lot since I joined Young Boys," he continued. "From the physical side I had to work hard to catch up with the level and I have also learned a great deal in tactical terms. Especially, as a striker I am now aware that I should also try to help with the defence when needed."
He has also made progress off the pitch. "In the club I mainly use German to communicate," he said. "At the beginning it was hard, but now I communicate without any problem."
Needless to say, much is expected of a player like Kubo who is scoring regularly for both club and country. "My dreams are still to be realised. I believe that one day I will move to a bigger league. My wish is to move to the Italian Serie A and it is the goal of my career to play with a big club in Italy."