Japan raising eyebrows
Japan have been the surprise package of the men’s and women’s football competition at London 2012 – and both sides have given themselves a real chance to be medal contenders.
With one game to go, the men have already qualified for the next round with a maximum six points from two games against Morocco and Spain.
The focus in Group D was on Spain, but Japan dealt them a blow from which they failed to recover as they beat the Euro 2012 champions 1-0 in the opening game.
The women currently have four points and are in second position in Group F after beating Canada and drawing with Sweden. They need to beat South Africa in today’s game to secure qualification to the knockout rounds.
But where has Japan’s success come from?
With the increased popularity of the Premier League and the emergence of Japanese players in England, football is a much more popular sport in Japan.
Law of averages
Like China, Japan also have money to pump into sports to provide the necessary training, coaches, and background amenities to help them to succeed. The ever growing population also shows that on the law of averages they have a chance of producing a quality team.
If the current popularity of the sport continues in Japan, they could be a force to be reckoned with in years to come. Particularly as most of the Olympics squad are under 23, these are emerging stars.
A knock on effect could be an increasing number of Japanese players coming to the Premier League. Manchester United have seen that touring the Far East and having a player from the region in their ranks pays dividends, and this in itself has contributed to the success of the Japanese team.
Part of the appeal for United with Shinji Kagawa is because of the greater fan base this will generate.
As for Japan, they seem to be focusing on success in the long term – and there is a chance that glory in the form of medals could follow shortly.
By Claire Needham
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