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Date in your diary: Dortmund, 22 June, Japan v Brazil
David v Goliath: Munich, 18 June, Brazil v Australia
History repeats itself: Nantes, 20 June 1998, Japan v Croatia Golden Shoe winner Davor Suker's 77th-minute strike settled the sides' meeting at the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. It was both countries' first finals appearance – and the victory sent eventual semi-finalists Croatia into the second round, while eliminating Japan.
Brazil will be the team to beat in Germany. Ronaldinho alone has the potential to light up the whole tournament and there is no doubt that at their best, Carlos Alberto Parreira's men have the attacking qualities to outclass any opponent. Yet each of their first-round rivals have matched the Seleção at one time or another.
Croatia should be stronger than the ageing team who disappointed at Korea/Japan 2002 and coach Niko Kranjcar will take heart from their 1-1 friendly draw with Brazil last summer. Likewise Zico, whose Japan side gave the Brazilians a real scare in the FIFA Confederations Cup in June, drawing 2-2 but very nearly securing a first ever victory over the South Americans.
Japan will be out to build on their success on home soil in 2002, where they reached the round of sixteen, and their matches with both Croatia and Australia look sure to be closely contested. With that in mind, the winners of their opening fixture against the Socceroos will gain a real shot of confidence. It will be fascinating to see what Guus Hiddink can achieve with the Australians, always combative and now sure to benefit from the experience of the man who led the Netherlands to the 1998 semi-finals and Korea Republic to the last four in 2002.
Did you know?
As trainer of his native Netherlands, Australia coach Guus Hiddink lost to both Brazil and Croatia at France 98.