The Samurai Blue will kick-off their defense of the Asian Cup in January 2015 against Jordan and Iraq in the group stages of the tournament to be held in Australia. Drawn together in Group D, the three countries await the winner of the AFC Challenge Cup 2014 to join them in what promises to be one of the toughest groups in the tournament.
Japan has won the Asian Cup, a quadrennial international association football tournament, a record four times, becoming champions in 1992, 2000, 2004 and most recently, in 2011. They faltered in the opening game of the 2011 edition in Qatar, almost losing to Jordan before a last-minute goal from Maya Yoshida gave them a 1-1 draw. But they went on to win the tournament through another last-gasp goal, this time by Tadanari Lee, in the championship match against Australia, winning 1-0. Their first match in 2015 will be against the qualifying team from the Challenge Cup, an AFC tournament for “emerging countries” in Asia. Iraq is another previous winner, emerging as champions in 2007, while Jordan’s best finish has been two quarterfinal appearances in 2004 and 2011.
Current Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni, who led them to victory in 2011, may not even be around by that time, as he said he will wait until July, after the World Cup, to decide on whether to stay in Japan or move on to another job. The Samurai Blue are in Group C with Colombia, Greece and Ivory Coast in the group stages of the world’s biggest football tournament and they are expected to advance to the knockout stages and better their performance in 2010 where they reached the Final 16 before bowing to Paraguay in a heartbreaking penalty shootout.
[ via Soccerway ]