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Japan enters this yearís World League campaign hoping to kick start a new era in Japanese menís Volleyball.

Huge favourites with their home crowd, Japan have recently had the problem of trying to turn their popularity into success on the court, particularly away from Japan. Having participated in the World League 12 times, their best ever finish has been sixth (in 1990 and 1993) so 2005 will hopefully start a new winning formula.

With coach Ueta Tatsuya back in charge for his second World League campaign and a 2006 World Championship final round position already guaranteed as host, Tatsuya will be hoping to build a new winning combination out of the many new faces in his squad.

Following Japanís failure to qualify for the 2004 Olympic Games, when they finished 6th in an eight-team qualifying event in Tokyo last year, and a 10th place finish in the 2004 World League, which included 12 straight defeats, the Japanese menís team has undergone a makeover.

While crowd favourite Daisuke Usami still remains, missing is Japanís pin up skipper Yoichi Kato and their most powerful scoring weapon, the left armed Takahiro Yamamoto. Japan has been desperately crying out for some height in their ranks and this year it looks as though the gods have been kind.

Three players - Nobuharu Saito, Kota Yamamura and Yusuke Matsuta are taller than 200cm but whether or not they have the skills to make an impact where it counts Ė on the court Ė remains to be seen.

Japan has a very strong tradition in Volleyball and Tatsuya and his men will no doubt hope to do it justice in 2005. Japan started to play an important role in international menís Volleyball in the 1960s, scoring a solid eighth place at their inaugural World Championship in Brazil in 1960. Japanese Volleyball was in ascendance at that time and the national team went on to place fifth at the next two World Championships in the Soviet Union (1962) and Czechoslovakia (1966).

It wasnít long after that Japan joined the world elite, winning bronze twice at the World Championships in Bulgaria (1970) and Mexico (1974) while also playing a leading role at Olympic tournaments, reaching the podium three times in a row: Bronze at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, silver four years later in Mexico and finally triumphing in Munich in 1972.

The 1984 World Championship in Argentina also saw Japan in decent form and fourth place was evidence of their enduring skills. However, the country has been waiting for a big success since then, with their best finish being ninth in Greece (1994) and in 2002 in Argentina.

A modest 15th place at the 1998 World Championship in Japan was a bitter disappointment for this ambitious squad, although they performed well in Asian competitions in the middle of the 1990s, winning the 12th Asian Games (1994) and the 8th Asian Championship (1995).

After Japan failed to qualify for the second consecutive Olympic Games in 2000, a new, highly respected coach was appointed to create a "new Japan", a strong team able again to challenge the world's elite.

The one chosen was Japan's former star player Mikiyasu Tanaka and under his command, Japan returned to the World League in 2001. The results from the 2002 and 2003 editions (both 13th place finishes) indicate that Japan still has to work on rebuilding the team.

Overall Standings for Japan
World League Played Total Matches played Win Lost % Wins
12 156 40 116 25.6