Japan have been sending out competitive beach soccer sides since the early 1990s, a pedigree that was reflected in their fourth-place at the inaugural FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2005 under coach Ruy Ramos – who has now retaken the helm. The Japanese have qualified for every edition of the finals since, though they have only progressed beyond the first round on one further occasion, at Dubai 2009.
Despite the more competitive nature of the regional scene, the Japanese brought all their speed and beach soccer nous to bear in the Asian qualifying tournament in Muscat. After a memorable tournament, during which goal-getters Takeshi Kawaharazuka and Kunihiro Wakabayashi particularly caught the eye, Japan were crowned continental champions by beating hosts Oman in the final.
Given that a sizeable contingent of the squad that triumphed on Omani sands are veterans of Japan’s glorious FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2005 campaign, some of them may find that Ravenna/Italy 2011 is their last chance to shine at the finals. With a view to ensuring a smooth transition when the time comes, the Japanese are already blooding fine younger players like Shunsei Yamauchi.
Katsuhiro Yoshii, Eichi Kato
Takeshi Kawaharazuka, Kunihiro Wakabayashi, Shingo Terukina
Though Japan’s Asian qualifying story ended happily, they had to endure plenty of tough times along the way. A convincing opening win over Syria in Group B was followed by an extra-time loss to Iran, who progressed in first place in the section. The Japanese recovered to outclass Bahrain in the quarter-finals, before clinching their ticket to Ravenna with a close-fought 2-1 semi-final win over United Arab Emirates. In the final, they went a goal down to Oman but battled back for another 2-1 success.
The numbers game
6 - Six years after masterminding Japan’s best-ever FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup performance to date, when they reached the 2005 semi-finals, Ruy Ramos is back in the coaching hotseat. Could another run to the last four be on the cards?