|We're excited too Keisuke|
Star: Maybe it's just the name, but I clearly remember friends in Africa fixated on the darting, diving, striking style of Keisuke Honda. The golden-haired golden boy of Japanese football was a darling of fans who dug into CSKA Moscow especially in his various Champions league runs, before being the first Japanese player to merit a move to AC Milan.
Hip-Star: The real strength of Japan's team isn't at the front but in the back, where the solid team structure vaults them above teams with more individual talent (cou*South Korea*gh!). But rather than highlight video game coverboy Mayo Yoshida, we want to plump for more consistent, and versatile right back, Atsuto Uchida. He may not be the threat to score that draws eyeballs around the world, but if you're interested in that, why don't you just watch highlight reels? Philistine.
X-Factor: Japan will boast an unexpected strength in Brazil next month...homefield advantage. The third largest local fan base (outside of Brazil and ex-colonial power Portugal), almost 100,000 fans will be able to cheer on their national side from stadium bleachers rather than living room armchairs
Coach: After 27 years within the Italian leagues and no international experience, Alberto Zaccheroni took his trademark 3-4-3 style to Japan and has spent 4 years reaping the rewards, first with an Asian Cup trophy, then an easy-as-sashimi road to the cup and a trip to the Confederations Cup.
History: Strange but true, Japan first qualified for the cup in 1998 but have been a mainstay ever since, unfortunately alternating trips to the second round (as hosts in 2002 and again in 2010) with bottom feeding showings ('98 and 2006). They're due for disaster in Brazil (and a poor Confed Cup may back that hypothesis up, but it's hard to bet against the top team on a continent.
Food: Simplistic as it would be to cut up some raw fish and call myself accomplished, I prefer slightly more of a challenge, like say a quick plate of hot soba noodles with sauce and green onions.
Fool: Hilarious as it was for a few years to watch Japan cycle through prime ministers the way George Clooney cycled through girlfriends, it's nice that Shinzo Abe has brought a steady hand to the economic tiller. It would be nicer still if he could avoid visiting controversial war memorials, but still, he has to rank pretty low on the hierarchy of fools.
Best Case: Buoyed by local support they withstand Colombian, Ivorian and Greek tests unscathed in group C, besting the hard knock rivals in group D is a taller order, and the largely locally based side gives a good showing before bowing out in their second straight, second round.
Worst Case: Due for a bad cup, the Japanese have a terrible one, outgunned by Ivory Coast, out defended by the Greeks and out shouted by a nearby Colombia they wallow in the bottom of the group tables and head home empty handed.
My prediction: I started out before the draw, crazy high on Japan's chances. A great qualifying campaign, the promise of huge local support and I thought that the quarterfinals were manageable. Bad recent results and the threat of a tricky group C leave me to say 3rd Place--3 points
Added Bonus: Lest we let our cultural stereotypes get in the way, here's Hime with "Yellow Cab", so take your Manga-licious assumptions and shove it.