Results

Asia - World Cup Qualifying 06/11 10:14 6 [1] Japan v Syria [2] W 5-0
Asia - World Cup Qualifying 06/06 12:10 5 [4] Myanmar v Japan [1] W 0-5
Asia - World Cup Qualifying 03/26 08:00 4 North Korea v Japan W DBFA
Asia - World Cup Qualifying 03/21 10:20 3 [1] Japan v North Korea [2] W 1-0
AFC Asian Cup 02/03 11:30 3 [1] Iran v Japan [2] L 2-1
AFC Asian Cup 01/31 11:30 4 [1] Bahrain v Japan [2] W 1-3
AFC Asian Cup 01/24 11:30 3 [2] Japan v Indonesia [3] W 3-1
AFC Asian Cup 01/19 11:30 2 [2] Iraq v Japan [1] L 2-1
AFC Asian Cup 01/14 11:30 1 Japan v Vietnam W 4-2
International Match 01/09 11:30 - Japan v Jordan W 6-1
International Match 01/01 05:00 - Japan v Thailand W 5-0
Asia - World Cup Qualifying 11/21 14:45 2 [3] Syria v Japan [1] W 0-5

Stats

 TotalHomeAway
Matches played 16 10 6
Wins 14 10 4
Draws 0 0 0
Losses 2 0 2
Goals for 58 39 19
Goals against 13 7 6
Clean sheets 7 5 2
Failed to score 0 0 0

The Japan national football team (サッカー日本代表, Sakkā Nihon Daihyō or Sakkā Nippon Daihyō), also known by the nickname Samurai Blue (サムライ・ブルー, Samurai Burū), represents Japan in men's international football. It is controlled by the Japan Football Association (JFA), the governing body for football in Japan.

Until the end of the 1980s, Japan was a small and amateur team. For a long time in the country, football was less popular than baseball and sumo. Since the 1990s, when Japanese football became fully professionalized, Japan has emerged as one of the most successful teams in Asia; they have qualified for the last seven FIFA World Cups (especially 2002 as co-hosts with South Korea) with knockout stage appearances that year, and in 2010, 2018 and 2022. They have won the AFC Asian Cup a record four times, in 1992, 2000, 2004 and 2011. The team also finished second in the 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. Japan remains the only team from the AFC other than Australia and Saudi Arabia to have reached the final of a senior FIFA men's competition.

Japan's progression in a short period has served as an inspiration and example of how to develop football. Their principal continental rivals are South Korea and, most recently, Australia; they also developed rivalries against Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Japan was the first team from outside the Americas to participate in the Copa América, having been invited in the 1999, 2011, 2015, and 2019 editions of the tournament, though they only played in the 1999 and 2019 events.

History

Pre-war era (1910s–1930s)

Far Eastern Championship Games logo in 1917

Japan's earliest international matches were at the 1917 Far Eastern Championship Games in Tokyo, where it was represented by a team from the Tokyo Higher Normal School. Although Japan made strong showings in swimming, baseball, and track and field, its football team suffered resounding defeats to the Republic of China and the Philippines. Nevertheless, the game was promoted in Japanese schools in the 1920s. The Japan Football Association was formed in 1921, and Japan joined FIFA in May 1929.

Japan's first "true" national team (as opposed to a university team chosen to represent the country) was fielded at the 1930 Far Eastern Championship Games, and drew with China for the championship title. Shigeyoshi Suzuki coached the national team to its first Olympic appearance at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Japan was an entrant for the 1938 FIFA World Cup qualification, but withdrew before its scheduled qualifying match against the Dutch East Indies.

After World War II began in earnest, Japan did not play in international competition, except for a handful of matches against Manchuria and other colonies. Its last prewar match for purposes of Elo ratings was a friendly against the Philippines in June 1940.

While Korea was under Japanese rule, multiple Koreans played in international competition for Japan, including Kim Yong-sik (1936–40), Kim Sung-gan (1940) and Lee Yoo-hyung (1940).

Post-war era (1950s–1980s)

Japan playing Argentine club Racing de Córdoba at the 1981 President's Cup

Japan's postwar debut was in the 1951 Asian Games in India. Japan re-joined FIFA in 1950 and played in qualifiers for the 1954 FIFA World Cup, but lost the AFC qualifying berth to South Korea after two matches, beginning an intense rivalry. Japan also joined the Asian Football Confederation in 1954.

Dettmar Cramer joined the Japan national team as coach in 1960, and helped lead the team to the round of eight at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Japan's first major achievement in international football came in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, where the team won the bronze medal. Although this result earned the sport increased recognition in Japan, the absence of a professional domestic league hindered its growth and Japan would not qualify for the FIFA World Cup until 30 years later. Nonetheless, Japan had come close to qualify for the 1986 FIFA World Cup, but lost to South Korea in the deciding matches.

Japan made its first appearance in the Asian Cup in 1988, where they were eliminated in the group stage following a draw with Iran and losses to South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

The late 1980s saw concrete moves to professionalize the sport in Japan. JFA introduced a Special Licensed Player system in 1986, allowing a limited number of professional players to compete in the domestic semi-professional league. Action committees were held in 1988 and 1989 to discuss the introduction of a full professional league in Japan.

1990s: Rise

A World Cup match vs. Argentina in Toulouse in 1998

In 1991, the owners of the semi-professional Japan Soccer League agreed to disband the league and re-form as the professional J.League, partly to raise the sport's profile and to strengthen the national team program. The following year, Japan hosted the 1992 Asian Cup and won their first title by defeating Saudi Arabia 1–0 in the final. The J.League was officially launched in 1993.

However, in its first attempt to qualify with professional players, Japan narrowly missed a ticket to the 1994 World Cup after drawing with Iraq in the final match of the qualification round, remembered by fans as the "Agony of Doha". Japan's next tournament was a defence of their continental title at the 1996 Asian Cup. The team won all their games in the group stage but were eliminated in the quarter-finals after a 2–0 loss to Kuwait.

The nation's first ever World Cup appearance was in 1998, where Japan lost all their games. The first two fixtures went 1–0 in favour of Argentina and Croatia, and the campaign ended with a 2–1 defeat to Jamaica. Japan impressed in all three games, however, with all three defeats were just one goal margin.

2000s

In the 2000 AFC Asian Cup, Japan managed to reclaim their title after defeating Saudi Arabia in the final, becoming Asian champions for the second time.

A World Cup match vs. Belgium at Saitama Stadium 2002 on 4 June 2002

Two years later, Japan co-hosted the 2002 World Cup with South Korea. After a 2–2 draw with Belgium in their opening match, the Japanese team advanced to the second round with a 1–0 win over Russia and a 2–0 victory against Tunisia. However, they subsequently exited the tournament during the round of 16, after losing 1–0 to eventual third-place finishers Turkey.

With the 2004 AFC Asian Cup hosted by China, the Japanese managed to retain the title by winning their group after two victories over Thailand and Oman, before surpassing Jordan and Bahrain. They won against China in the final 3–1.

Japan against Brazil at Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, Germany in the 2006 FIFA World Cup

On 8 June 2005, Japan qualified for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, its third consecutive World Cup, by beating North Korea 2–0 on neutral ground. However, Japan failed to advance to the round of 16, losing to Australia 1–3, drawing Croatia 0–0 and losing to Brazil 1–4.

The 2007 AFC Asian Cup saw Japan failed to defend the title. Although easily winning the group Vietnam and two Arab rivals, Qatar and the UAE, the Japanese were totally exhausted in their game against Australia, where Japan won only by a penalty shootout. Japan lost to Saudi Arabia in the semi-finals, before failing in the third-place match against South Korea.

2010s

During the 2010 World Cup qualification, in the fourth round of the Asian Qualifiers, Japan became the first team other than the host South Africa to qualify after defeating Uzbekistan 1–0 away. Japan was drawn in Group E along with the Netherlands, Denmark and Cameroon. Japan started with a 1–0 win against Cameroon, before subsequently losing to the Netherlands 0–1. Then, Japan resoundingly beat Denmark 3–1 to advance to the next round against Paraguay. In the round of 16, Japan were eliminated from the competition following penalties after a 0–0 draw against Paraguay.

After the World Cup, head coach Takeshi Okada resigned. He was replaced by former Juventus and Milan coach Alberto Zaccheroni. In his first few matches, Japan recorded victories over Guatemala (2–1) and Paraguay (1–0), as well as a 1–0 victory over Argentina.

In 2011, Japan participated in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar. On 29 January, they beat Australia 1–0 in the final after extra time, their fourth Asian Cup triumph and allowing them to qualify for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.

Japan then started their road to 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Throughout, they suffered only two losses to Uzbekistan and Jordan, and drawing against Australia. Afterwards, on 12 October, Japan earned a historic 1–0 victory over France. After a 1–1 draw with Australia they qualified for the 2014 World Cup, becoming the first nation aside from Brazil to qualify.

Japan started their 2013 Confederations Cup campaign with a 3–0 loss to Brazil. They were then eliminated from the competition after losing to Italy 3–4. They lost their final match 1–2 against Mexico and finished in fourth place in Group A. One month later, in the EAFF East Asian Cup, they started out with a 3–3 draw to China. They then beat Australia 3–2 and beat South Korea 2–1 in the third and final match in the 2013 EAFF East Asian Cup to claim the title.

Japan was placed into Group C at the 2014 World Cup alongside the Ivory Coast, Greece and Colombia. They fell in their first match to Ivory Coast 2–1 after initially taking the lead, allowing two goals in a two-minute span. They drew their second game to Greece 0–0. To qualify for the second round, they needed a victory against Colombia and Greece to win against Ivory Coast. Greece beat Ivory Coast 2–1, but Colombia won 4–1, eliminating Japan from the World Cup. Alberto Zaccheroni resigned as head coach. In July 2014, former Mexico and Espanyol manager Javier Aguirre took over, and Japan lost 0–2 to Uruguay in the first game he managed.

Japan national team vs Paraguay in 2008

Japan won its opening match at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Group D against Asian Cup debutantes Palestine 4–0, with goals from Yasuhito Endō, Shinji Okazaki, Keisuke Honda via a penalty and Maya Yoshida. Okazaki was named man of the match. They then faced Iraq and Jordan in their next group matches, which they won 1–0 and 2–0 respectively. They qualified to the knockout stage as Group D winner with nine points, seven goals scored and no goals conceded. In the quarter-finals, Japan lost to the United Arab Emirates in a penalty shootout after a 1–1 draw, as Honda and Shinji Kagawa missed their penalty kicks. Japan's elimination marked their worst performance in the tournament in 19 years.

After the Asian Cup, Aguirre was sacked following allegations of corruption during a prior tenure. He was replaced by Vahid Halilhodžić in March 2015. Japan started on a rough note during qualification, losing to the UAE 1–2 at home. They then picked up the pace in their other qualifier games against Iraq, Australia, and Thailand, picking up 5 wins and 2 draws. Then, on 31 August 2017, Japan defeated Australia 2–0 at home thus qualifying them for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, making it their sixth successive World Cup. However, the Japan Football Association decided to sack Halilhodžić on 9 April 2018, only ten weeks before the World Cup finals, citing reasons of a breakdown in relationship between coach and player, and poor recent friendly results, and appoint the Technical Director, Japanese coach Akira Nishino, who had managed the Japanese Under-23 team at the 1996 Olympics, as the new manager.

Japanese players before match with Iran at 2019 AFC Asian Cup

Japan made history in the 2018 FIFA World Cup by defeating Colombia 2–1, their first ever victory by any AFC team against a CONMEBOL team in an official tournament, as well as Japan's first ever victory at the FIFA World Cup finals in UEFA nations. Their second match ended in a draw against Senegal, with one goal scored by Takashi Inui and the other by Keisuke Honda. Japan were defeated in their last group game in the Group H against Poland 0–1, leaving Japan and Senegal tied for second with an identical record, however, as Japan had received two fewer yellow cards, Japan advanced to the knockout stage on the Fair Play Points tiebreaker, the first team to do so. The match with Poland caused controversy; as Japan were made aware of their advantage over Senegal with ten minutes left and decided to play an extremely conservative game with no attempts to take a shot on goal, despite losing 0–1, with some fans booing the players. The match received comparison to the 1982 World Cup Disgrace of Gijón, in which a similar game was played. Japan were the only AFC team to have qualified to the knockout stage.

In the Round of 16 against Belgium, Japan took a surprising 2–0 lead with a goal in the 48th minute by Genki Haraguchi and another in the 52nd by Takashi Inui, but yielded 3 goals afterwards, including the winner by Nacer Chadli on the counterattack in the 94th minute. This was Japan's third time having reached the last 16, equaling their best result at a World Cup. Japan's defeat to eventual third-place finishers Belgium was the first time a nation had lost a knockout match at the World Cup after taking a two-goal advantage since England lost to West Germany 2–3 in extra-time in the quarter-final of the 1970 edition. This unfortunate scenario was due to the naivety of the Japanese, who were very offensive and did not fall back enough in defense once the two-goal lead was acquired (unlike France, eventual champion, in the semifinals who played low block against these same Belgians with success), leaving a lot of space to the Belgians, who also took advantage of their well-calculated tactics and superior strategies to turn the game around. However, Japan's impressive performance was praised by fans, pundits and the media.

Japan participated in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup and had an almost successful tournament. The team easily topped group F after defeating Turkmenistan 3–2, Oman 1–0 and Uzbekistan 2–1. Japan, which opted for a cautious defensive approach (as the offensive approach lead to a regretful scenario against Belgium during the World Cup 2018), also beat fellow powerhouse Saudi Arabia in the round of sixteen and dark horse Vietnam in the quarter-finals by the narrowest of margins like during the group stage, both 2 knockout phases' games ended with 1–0 margin; Blue Samurai resist intense Saudi domination. After defeating Iran 3–0 to reach the final, Japan's hope to win their fifth Asian Cup in two decades shattered with the team suffering a 1–3 loss to Qatar, who won the Asian Cup for the first time.

Japan were invited to the 2019 Copa America, their second appearance at the tournament, and brought a young squad to the competition. They were in Group C with Uruguay, Chile and Ecuador. They lost their opening match, 0–4 to Chile. Japan, however, bounced back well and managed to unluckily draw against football giants Uruguay 2–2, who (Uruguay) were deemed to have been saved by VAR. Japan needed a win against Ecuador to qualify for the knockouts, however they drew 1–1 and missed out due to inferior goal differences to Paraguay. Aftermath saw Japan played a friendly game against the Paraguayans, and won 2–0 at home.

2020s

After China was removed as host of the 2022 EAFF E-1 Football Championship, it was announced that Japan was the new host. After topping the table with two wins and one draw, Japan won the competition for the second time in their history.

Japan qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and were grouped with Germany, Costa Rica and Spain in Group E. On 23 November 2022, Japan produced an upset in which they beat Germany 2–1, with two goals in an eight-minute span during the second half. After being upset by Costa Rica 1–0, going into the final matchday, every team in Japan's group can qualify or be eliminated, with no team assured of any placement. In the end, Japan managed to qualify for the knockout stages by defeating Spain 2–1 in their final group match, also contributing to Germany's elimination from the tournament. By topping their group, Japan went on to face Croatia in the round of 16 where Japan would lose 1–3 on penalties after a 1–1 draw. It is the third team in 52 years to have come from behind twice in one tournament, following Brazil and (West) Germany. They beat Spain with the lowest possession (18%) of the ball ever for a winning side since the 1966 World Cup. It is the first time that an Asian team topped their World Cup group held outside their home country, and also the first Asian team to reach the knockouts twice in a row.

With a successful World Cup behind them and a run of ten consecutive victories in all competitions since June 2023, many of them in style, Japan were considered the favourites for the 2023 Asian Nations Cup in Qatar, especially as the Samurai Blue had a strong squad. Japan, however, were the biggest disappointment of the tournament, putting in a catastrophic performance. Hajime Moriyasu's men began the tournament with an unconvincing victory over a Vietnamese side deprived of a number of key players (4–2), before going on to play a nightmarish game against Iraq (1–2). This defeat, Japan's first in the group phase since their first appearance at the continental showpiece in 1988, condemned them to finish second in the group due to their unfavourable head-to-head record. Japan then defeated Indonesia 3–1 and eliminated Bahrain by the same scoreline in the round of 16. They met Iran in the quarter-finals for a rematch of the previous edition's semi-final, and initially led with Hidemasa Morita's 28th-minute opener, before falling completely flat in the second half, succumbing to Iran's fiery attacks and lacking the ideas to trouble Team Melli on the counter-attack, eventually losing 2–1. The Japanese dealt with Junya Itō missing due to the Stade de Reims player having been accused of sexual assault.

Japan's national soccer team, simply known as "Japan," is a powerhouse in Asian football. The team is known for their technical skill, speed, and tactical prowess on the field. They have a rich history of success in international competitions, including multiple appearances in the FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup.

The team is known for their disciplined and organized style of play, with a strong emphasis on teamwork and precision passing. They are also known for their resilience and never-say-die attitude, often coming from behind to secure important victories.

Japan boasts a talented roster of players, both domestically and internationally based, who have made a name for themselves on the global stage. The team is led by a dedicated coaching staff who are committed to developing and nurturing the next generation of Japanese soccer stars.

Overall, Japan's national soccer team is a force to be reckoned with in the world of football, and they continue to inspire fans both at home and abroad with their skill, determination, and passion for the game.