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Japanese soccer can be rightfully proud of the progress it has made as the national team prepares to begin its fifth straight World Cup campaign, but no one in the squad will be happy just to take part.

The 2014 World Cup kicks off on Thursday (Friday, Japan time) with five-time champions Brazil taking on Croatia in Sao Paulo and Japan getting its first taste of action against Cote d’Ivoire in Recife two days later. Manager Alberto Zaccheroni has remained deliberately tight-lipped when pressed to name his target for the tournament, but his players have been considerably more bullish.

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