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Japan Under-23 national team

Fighting for success at the 2012 Olympics

Japan will make their fifth straight Olympic appearance and ninth overall at the 2012 Summer Games in London, after securing one of the 3.5 berths awarded to Asia.

Japan Under-23 national team

Ticket to London
When the final whistle blew in Japan's 2-0 win over Bahrain in their last qualifying match for the 2012 Olympics on March 14 at the National Stadium in Tokyo, the crowd went wild with excitement as all concerned celebrated their successful Olympic campaign.
Japan completed their final-round qualifiers with a 5-0-1 win-draw-loss record for 15 points, three more than closest rivals Syria.
Their win-loss record in Group C was the best among the 12 teams in the final-round campaign. Japan scored 13 goals in six matches for the highest record in the final round. The three goals they gave away was the second-lowest total among the final-round teams.

First gold
Takashi Sekizuka took over as boss of the Olympic team in September 2010 while working as assistant to Japan senior team coach Alberto Zaccheroni. Only two months after that, Sekizuka's team took part in their first major competition – the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China – and they did superbly to take the title.
Due to a tight schedule of domestic matches and senior team games, Sekizuka was unable to call up all the players he wanted. In addition, training times were limited in the run-up to the quadrennial Asian event. But the squad overcame their difficulties and grew throughout the tournament.
After starting with a 3-0 win over hosts China, Japan secured a spot in the knockout stages with a 2-0 victory over Malaysia in their second group game. They won their group after beating Kyrgyzstan 3-0 and then cruised past India 5-0 in the Round of 16.
The "Young Samurai" beat Thailand 1-0 in the quarterfinals, edged Iran 2-1 in the semifinals and held off the United Arab Emirates 1-0 in the final to win the Asian Games gold medal for the first time ever.
As an added bonus, forward Kensuke Nagai was the tournament's top goal-scorer with five goals and Japan also won the women's title.

Preparing for Olympic qualifiers
In 2011, the Japan Under-22 side forged ahead with their preparations for the Olympic qualifiers, starting off with a two-game tour to the Middle East in February. After Saudi Arabia cancelled a friendly match, Japan met a Kuwait XI on February 9. They lost that one 3-0, but they redeemed themselves with a 2-0 victory over their Bahraini counterparts in Manama on February 12.
Sekizuka's side was scheduled to play Uzbekistan in Tokyo on March 29 in a friendly, but the game was called off following the massive earthquake that hit the northeast part of Japan on March 11. As a result, the team went the other way and visited Uzbekistan for a two-game friendly series – a 1-0 loss on March 26 and a 2-1 win on March 29.
The Under-22s also played Australia on June 9 – they won 3-1 – in a warm-up for the second round of qualifiers for the 2012 Olympics.

Fighting for an Olympic spot
Japan opened their Olympic qualifying campaign with a 3-1 win over Kuwait at home on June 19 before facing the Kuwaitis away and suffering a 2-1 loss on June 23. However, they won the tie on goal difference and advanced to the third and final round of qualifiers.
Japan started their final-round campaign by beating Malaysia 2-0 in attacking style on September 22 in a home match at Tosu, and went on to beat Bahrain 2-0 on November 22 in Manama. Five days later, they beat Syria 2-1 in Tokyo.
Following a weeklong training camp in Guam and another weeklong session in Doha in January to gear up for their three remaining matches, the Under-23s met Syria on February 5 in Amman, Jordan, due to unrest in Syria. Japan lost 2-1, their first loss in the qualifying campaign. The result meant Syria overtook Japan in the Group C standings and put their Olympic qualification in jeopardy.
But the Young Samurai Blue recovered well to beat Malaysia with a stylish 4-0 victory. On top of that, Bahrain did Japan a huge favour by beating Syria 2-1, putting Sekizuka's side back in the driving seat with one game left in the campaign.
The Japan Under-23s then downed Bahrain 2-0 at home in Tokyo to win the group and qualification for the Olympic finals in London.

Tuning up for finals
Japan are scheduled to play in the Toulon International Tournament from May 23 to June 2 in France as part of their preparations for the Summer Games.
The Olympic tournament is slated for July 26 to August 11, and the draw for the finals will take place on April 24.