Despite being regarded as Asia's perennial bridesmaids, Japan belong among the continent's best. In fact, coach Sergio Sapo's side remain the only side to have denied Iran the continental title thanks to their heroic victory over Team Melli in the 2006 final. Japan's reign proved brief, however, as Iran beat them 4-1 in the following year's competition.
Until their narrow defeat by Iran in the semi-finals, Japan had kept an unblemished record in the Asian qualifiers. They beat Chinese Taipei 8-2 on their opener and followed it up with a 4-1 win over Turkmenistan. Australia proved their toughest test in the group stage, although Sapo's troops recovered a two-goal deficit to run out 4-2 victors. A 4-0 reverse of Kyrgyzstan in the quarter-finals sealed Japan's place at Brazil 2008, and despite being edged out by Iran in their next outing, they overcame China PR 5-3 to seize bronze.
Spearheaded by veteran Kenichiro Kogure, who finished top scorer in last year's AFC Futsal Championship, Japan were targeting their second continental title earlier this year. Their hopes, however, ended with a 1-0 defeat by Iran in the semi-finals. Despite the loss, the forthcoming FIFA Futsal World Cup provides coach Sapo and his charges with a chance to show their potential. "I'm not 100 per cent satisfied, because we were here to go to the final and win the championship," said the Brazilian after the qualification campaign. "But we still have the World Cup and what we need to do now is to do our preparatory work well."
Facts and figures
Japan scored 25 times in six matches.
The numbers game
1 - The number of times Japan have captured the Asian title.