Factbox on Japan
Colours: Blue shirts, white shorts, blue socks
Nickname: Blue Samurai
Previous World Cup appearances: 3 (1998, 2002, 2006)
Best World Cup performance: last 16, 2002 (as co-hosts)
Coach: Takeshi Okada
Most capped player: Masami Ihara 122
Top goalscorer: Kunishige Kamamoto 75
Japan coach Takeshi Okada's refusal to back-track on his declared goal of a semi-final place at the World Cup despite all evidence pointing to an early exit appears to have added more pressure on his players.
The Blue Samurai have suffered a severe dip in form in the run-in to the tournament. Okada has come under fire for his selection policy and tactics and will leave the job after the tournament.
Injuries to playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura since his return to the J-League from Spanish side Espanyol are a concern but the form of CSKA Moscow's Keisuke Honda and Wolfsburg's Makoto Hasebe could compensate in the midfield area.
Players to watch:
Honda and Hasebe look pivotal for Japan's hopes of scoring the goals they will need to have any chance of progressing.
Former Arsenal midfielder Junichi Inamoto could be a key player shielding Japan's defence against the superior firepower of the Netherlands, Cameroon and Denmark in Group E.
(Compiled by Alastair Himmer. Editing by Miles Evans. To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)