Japan

The past
Japan have been hugely competitive on the sand since the early 1990s, a pedigree that was in evidence with a fourth-place finish at the inaugural FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2005. Consistency is reflected in the fact Japan have qualified for all seven editions of the FIFA tournament, though they have progressed beyond the first round only on one further occasion, that being at Dubai 2009. Ravenna 2011 may have provided further disappointment, however Japan impressed despite three narrow defeats, including an epic 3-2 match-up against beach powerhouse Brazil.

The present
Japan were made to use all of their experience and know-how to win passage to Tahiti 2013 via the qualifying tournament in Doha. Despite the team scoring with regularity, they were pushed all the way in most games, including by Lebanon in the group stage, and by Australia in the all-important semi-final. However, yet another Asian crown seemed there for the taking, but Japan threw away a 6-3 lead against Iran before eventually succumbing on penalties, suggesting that defensive issues need to be ironed out.

The future
With a mixture of experience and fresh blood, Japan seem to have a balanced side for their tilt on the world’s best. Leading the way is naturalised Brazilian-born attacking powerhouse Ozu Moreira, who finished as the qualifying tournament’s with 10 strikes and named the most valuable player. Japan scored with regularity during qualifying with their high-tempo play resulting in 24 goals across five matches, and the attacking part of their game is set to be their forte.