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Hernandez: Five matches to watch

Liga MX about an hour ago
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Apr 24, 2013

Japan tipped for 2014 quarters

Former Japan captain Tsuneyasu Miyatomo believes his nation can win the World Cup within the next 20 years, and predicts the Samurai Blue will qualify for the quarter-finals of next year's tournament in Brazil.

Japan are in a prime position to qualify for the 2014 World Cup - which would be their fifth consecutive since making a breakthrough in 1998 - sitting atop Group B in the AFC standings.

They have not yet progressed beyond the round of 16, but Miyatomo, a former Red Bull Salzburg defender, insists progress within Japan has them on the verge of another watershed moment.

"If we qualify, I think our team could reach the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals," he told FIFA.com. "It's good that we're playing in the Confederations Cup this year, as it'll be an excellent yardstick to see where we're at as a team, and in particular to assess the progress of our younger players.

"Football in Japan has progressed incredibly. Currently there's fantastic work being done at grassroots level and I think we're reaping the rewards of the 2002 World Cup, which had a huge impact on my country. I wouldn't be surprised to see a large number of Japanese players at big European clubs in the next ten years.

"The fact that a high number of matches from European leagues are currently widely available on television has contributed to football's increasing popularity in Japan."

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