Japan was drawn on Wednesday with Italy, South Africa and Uruguay in Group D for the Under-20 World Cup in South Korea.
At the draw in Suwon, South Korea, for the May 20-June 11 tournament, the 24 teams were split into six groups of four. Two former winners of the competition from Argentina, Diego Maradona in 1979 and Pablo Aimar in 1997, took part in the draw.
Japan has qualified for the U-20 World Cup for the first time since 2007. Atsushi Uchiyama’s side plays South Africa on May 21 in Suwon, where it faces Uruguay three days later.
Japan wraps up the first round against Italy on May 27. The top two from each group plus the four best third-place teams advance to the round of 16.
The final is on June 11.
Uchiyama said he is aware the opposition will be anything but easy, but hopes his team can grow through the tournament looking ahead to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“We are expecting a difficult fight,” Uchiyama said in a statement. “Uruguay can really attack and South Africa have their trademark athleticism and resilience. Italy are talented individually, and persevere on defense.
“But we are the Asian champions and hope to keep the other teams on their toes.”
Host South Korea is in Group A with Argentina, England and Guinea. Group B consists of Germany, Mexico, Vanuatu and Venezuela, while Costa Rica, Iran, Portugal and Zambia make up Group C.
France, Honduras, Vietnam and New Zealand, host of the last tournament two years ago, are in Group E. Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and the United States fill out Group F.