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The World Cup is ominously close! So that you aren't caught offside (they have that in soccer, right?), we're previewing all the participants, bringing you Four Things You Don't Know About Them. If you have a tidbit, send it along to Today: Japan! And for World Cup previews that are even better than ours, check out That's On Point, who helped us with these as well.

1. Don't Bet the Dojo On Them. The U.S. beat Japan 3-2 in February in a maych played at San Francisco's Pac Bell (now AT&T) Park. It was 3-0 until very late. In said game, Zico employed the ill-fated 3-6-1, which former U.S. coach Steve Sampson used for a last place finish in 1998. It might be a necessity, though, since after Takahara there aren't a lot of options up top. Japan wants to play fast, one-touch, attacking soccer. Sort of like a team they'll play; Brazil. Unless they notch a result against Australia, 0-3 looks a definite possibility. — (thanks to Mike Cardillo).

2. Do The Antler Dance. The J-League has one of the more handsomely named squads, the Kashima Antlers. Of course that pales in comparison to the Japan Pacific Baseball League squad, the Nippon Ham Fighters. Sadly, Matsumura Fishworks and Tamaribuchi Heavy Manufacturing Concern did not sponsor top flight sides.

3. But It Goes To Eleven. May we take a short time out and talk about Japanese sports icon Sadaharu Oh? First of all, he scoffs at Barry Bonds' so-called career home run record chase; not only did he manage Japan to a win in the recent WBC, Oh also owns 868 career homers, mostly with the Yomiuri Giants. Trumping all that, Oh's jersey is worn by Nigel Tufnel in the final scene from This is Spinal Tap. — (thanks to Mike Cardillo).

4. Can't You See I'm Serious? Looking at Japan's roster makes one want to eat misprepared blowfish. Inamoto, Nakamura and Nakata, but not much more. Maybe Mr. Sparkle will suit up to banish Croatia and Australia to the land of wind and ghosts. — (thanks to Mike Cardillo).


(Tomorrow: Ivory Coast)