The Japan men’s national team will make its first appearance at the FIBA World Cup, which was formerly called the FIBA World Championship, since the 2006 edition in Japan. The Akatsuki Five have punched a ticket to it on their own for the first time since 1998.

During the Asian qualifiers for the World Cup, Japan once had its back against the wall falling to 0-4. But it turned the table with the additions of star powers like Nick Fazekas, Rui Hachimura and Yuta Watanabe. The Akatsuki Five pulled an upset over the then-world’s No. 10 Australia and went undefeated in the rest of the preliminaries to successfully book a spot in the event.

Japan finished 13th (a 1-7 record) in the 1963 edition of the tournament in Brazil, 11th (2-6) in Uruguay in 1967, 14th (1-4) in Greece in 1998 and 17th (1-4) at the aforementioned 2006 event.

Thanks to the phenomenal performance in the Asian preliminaries, Japan was granted a spot in next summer’s Tokyo Olympics as the host nation.

Japan has never beaten a team from Europe at the World Cup. It has, however, beaten Peru, Panama, Puerto Rico, Paraguay and Senegal in games at the tournament.

“The fact shows how tough it is for you to compete at this level,” Lamas said.

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