|Ogasawara was player-of-the-year in Japan's domestic league [GALLO/GETTY]
The Samurai Blue reached their first World Cup finals at France 1998 and have never looked back, with South Africa being their fourth in a row.
Coach Takeshi Okada has set his sights on the semi-finals – a lofty ambition considering his star player, Shunsuke Nakamura, has returned to J-League side Yokohama Marinos after failing to cut it at Espanyol.
Currently ranked 45th, Japan reached the second round at home in 2002 but could struggle to turn their fine record in Asian competitions into success at this World Cup.
Seigo Narazaki (Nagoya Grampus), Eiji Kawashima (Kawasaki Frontale), Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi (Jubilo Iwata).
Yuji Nakazawa (Yokohama F-Marinos), Tulio (Nagoya Grampus), Yasuyuki Konno (FC Tokyo), Daiki Iwamasa (Kashima Antlers), Yuichi Komano (Jubilo Iwata), Yuto Nagatomo (FC Tokyo), Atsuto Uchida (Kashima Antlers).
Shunsuke Nakamura (Yokohama F-Marinos), Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka), Kengo Nakamura (Kawasaki Frontale), Junichi Inamoto (Kawasaki Frontale), Yuki Abe (Urawa Reds), Makoto Hasebe (Wolfsburg), Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow), Daisuke Matsui (Grenoble).
Shinji Okazaki (Shimizu S-Pulse), Keiji Tamada (Nagoya Grampus), Yoshito Okubo (Vissel Kobe), Takayuki Morimoto (Catania), Kisho Yano (Albirex Niigata).
Yuhei Tokunaga (FC Tokyo), Tomoaki Makino (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Mitsuo Ogasawara (Kashima Antlers), Shinji Kagawa (Cerezo Osaka), Naohiro Ishikawa (FC Tokyo), Tatsuya Tanaka (Urawa Reds), Ryoichi Maeda (Jubilo Iwata).
Al Jazeera and agencies