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Three reason why Japan can claim historic win against China
21/02/2024
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Three reasons why Japan can claim historic win against China

BEIRUT (Lebanon) - If there had to be a game that could be labelled as "The Game" of this Window 1 of the FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers, it will be the clash between Japan and China.

The two teams in Group C are set to face each other on February 25 at 14:00 (GMT +9) in Tokyo at the Ariake Coliseum.

 

 

Why is this matchup such a big deal?

First, consider the history of these two teams in the Asia Cup.

Most appearances by a team in FIBA Asia Cup (Min. 20 appearances)

No. Team FIBA Asia Cup Appearances
1 Korea 30
2 Japan 29
3 Philippines 28
4 Hong Kong 27
5 India 26
6 Chinese Taipei 25
7 Malaysia 24
8 China 23


There are only eight national teams that have played in at least 20 Asia Cups. Japan and China are two of those teams with Japan having featured in 29 Asia Cups and China featured in 23 Asia Cups. Japan have only missed one Asia Cup (in 1963) while China have not missed an Asia Cup since their first appearance in 1975.

More than merely their presence at the Asia Cup are their winning ways.

China are the all-time leaders in Asia Cup titles won with 16 in total. They are also second all-time in podium finishes, with 19 editions ending as one of the top three teams. Japan are right behind China, ending up on the podium 14 times in total with 2 titles won.

Between the two teams, that's a combined 33 trips to the Asia Cup podium. Only a combination of two teams in one game that involves Korea would have a larger number of combined Asia Cup podium finishes.

Titles won & Podium Finishes in FIBA Asia Cup (Team)

No. Team Titles Podium Finishes
1 China 16 19
2 Philippines 5 10
3 Iran 3 5
4 Korea 2 25
  Japan 2 14
  Australia 2 2

 

Japan's chance at history

Japan are undoubtedly one of Asia's basketball powerhouses. This is reflected in their Asia Cup success as well as their roster of notable stars that have put on the national team jersey.

But one thing they have not been able to do in a FIBA Asia setting or higher at the national team level is defeat China - at least since the 1936 Olympic Games.

Head-to-Head: Japan vs China (FIBA Asia competition or Higher)

No. Year Competition Winning Team Result
1 2021 FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers China 106-73
2 2021 FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers China 79-63
3 2021 FIBA Asia Cup 2022 Qualifiers China 90-84
4 2021 FIBA Asia CUp 2022 Qualifiers China 66-57
5 2011 FIBA Asia Cup China 84-58
6 2005 FIBA Asia Cup China 86-53
7 2003 FIBA Asia Cup China 88-60
8  2001 FIBA Asia Cup China 126-67
9 1995  FIBA Asia Cup China 73-61
10 1991 FIBA Asia Cup China 105-62
11 1989 FIBA Asia Cup China 94-70
12 1987 FIBA Asia Cup China 85-69
13 1983 FIBA Asia Cup China 105-79
14 1983 FIBA Asia Cup China 95-71
15 1981 FIBA Asia Cup China 71-60
16 1979 FIBA Asia Cup China 70-68
17 1977 FIBA Asia Cup China 110-81
18 1975 FIBA Asia Cup China 80-59
19 1936 Olympic Games Japan 35-19 

 

14 times Japan have faced China in the Asia Cup - with some Asia Cups facing each other twice. Then, in 2021 alone, the two teams clashed for a total of four times in the span of only 6 months at both the Asia Cup Qualifiers and World Cup Qualifiers.

And all of those times, Japan have suffered defeats.

So this time, in Window 1 of the Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers, is a chance for Japan to finally score that elusive victory.

Three key reasons why

But China have been undefeated against Japan throughout the past 50 years for a reason. They are consistently really, really good. The catch here is that Japan are really, really, REALLY good as well which is why they have hopes of getting this important win.

Here are three reasons why Japan can win this marquee matchup against China in the upcoming days.

1. Optimism is in the air

Head coach Tom Hovasse took over the team reigns of this AKATSUKI JAPAN team in 2021 and coached his first game against China. Japan lost both games by 16 and 33 points.

"Those first two games against China in 2021 were a wake-up call for everyone associated with Japan Basketball. It was obvious that change was necessary," said Hovasse.

From that point on, Japan went on to have a promising run in Asia Cup 2022, which ended in the Quarter-Finals against eventual champs Australia. They then had an even more monumental campaign at the World Cup which was co-hosted in Okinawa, where they finished as the team with the best results in Asia - locking up a spot at Paris 2024.

Therefore, there's a lot of optimism about how far the national team program has come along. It's not only about the exceptional level of individual talents that have been developed, but the overall identity and playing style of the team that feeds off the vibes of "we can take on anyone".

That determination to prove themselves of how far they've come could be essential in fueling a big performance.

"I'm excited for this next game to see how far we have come and what we need to work on. It will be a great test against a very good team."

2. In transition

This is not in reference to Japan's uptempo style of play (which could also play a big part in the outcome of this game), but rather the build of China's current national team.

There is - and has always been - enough talent in China's deep talent pool to form a strong team, which they have done again here ahead of their Window 1 games. Asia Cup champion Zhao Jiwei, with appearances at two World Cups and an Olympic Games, is among one of China's best guards. Abudushalamu Abudurexiti and Hu Mingxuan are top-notch forwards.

But it's more than clear that coach Sasa Djordjevic is also aiming to infuse some youth into the lineup for these upcoming games for China.

"We need to win and at the same time look to the future," said Djordjevic.

That could potentially leave some margins of error of which Japan can take advantage. Whether it's adjusting to defensive rotations or the growing pains of building chemistry, teams that are transitioning between generations will always have gaps to be aware of.

Even then, however, it won't be that easy for Japan. The "newer" player for Team China are no pushovers. Between promising prospects like Cui Yongxi, Yu Jiahao, and the youth national team star Yang Hansen, they young guns will be ready to be a handful for the opposition.

3. Home Sweet Home

Put yourselves in the shoes of one of the players playing in this game. If you are Japan, you're already fueled by the high of confidence and optimism over the past months of the national team. As you step onto the court, the fans that are packed at the Ariake Coliseum roar in your support.

If you are China, especially if you are one of the younger players, imagine the pressure you will experience as those same fans scream in hopes of doing whatever they can to keep you off your game.

That's what came into play when Japan defeated the likes of Finland, Venezuela, and Cape Verde at the Okinawa Arena. Now, it's just a matter of moving that experience to Tokyo.

Will Japan do it?

There are most likely more than only three reasons why Japan can claim a historical win over China. Likewise, there are plenty of reasons why China can extend that win streak further. But we've listed here the key reasons why it can be done as well as why this game matters so much.

When it comes to game time, however, how will the ball roll?
Will Japan make history or will China keep the tradition going?
Who do you think will win?

 

FIBA