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Date: 12/19/2016

Coach: Antonio Carlos Ortega Perez


Key Players: Atsushi Mekaru (Playmaker), Hiroki Shida (Left back), Remi Anri Doi Feutrier (Left Wing), Yuto Agarie (Left wing)


Road to Qualification: 3rd Place – 2016 Asian Men’s Championship


History in Tournament: 1954, 1958: DNQ, 1961 – 12th, 1964 – 16th, 1967 – 11th, 1970 – 10th, 1974 – 12th, 1978 – 12th, 1982 – 14th, 1986 – DNQ, 1990 – 15th, 1993 – DNQ, 1995 – 23rd, 1997 – 15th, 1999-2003 – DNQ, 2005 – 16th, 2007-2009 – DNQ, 2011 – 16th, 2013-2015 – DNQ.




While a 10th place finish appears, on paper, to look like their best-ever result at an IHF Men’s World Championship, the position, back in 1970 – in France – was when the tournament featured just 16 teams.


A 15th place finish in 1997 on home territory – the only time up to that point that a world championship had been held outside of Europe – is somewhat better as the tournament by then had expanded to 24 teams.


But Japan have not built on that result, going the next three editions without qualifying and only making two of the following nine tournaments.


Having been awarded the 2020 Olympic Games, Japan had re-emphasised the need to invest in handball and all eyes were on the 2016 AHF Asian Men’s Championships in Bahrain, providing 2nd-4th place with a ticket to France 2017 thanks to Qatar finishing as runners-up in 2015 and receiving an automatic place due to that.


So what did Japan do? They employed five-time EHF Champions League winning player and coach of Veszprem – Spanish coach Antonio Carlos Ortega on a short-term contract – and it worked.


His side beat Korea (31:25), Oman (29:24) and Syria (24:15) and lost to Qatar (29:24) in the Preliminary Round meaning a second-place group finish to set up a semi-final against hosts Bahrain. But a five-goal deficit (15:10) at half-time proved too much to overcome and the Japanese lost 29:23. In the bronze medal match, despite both Japan and their opponents, Saudi Arabia both having booked tickets for France 2017, a commanding performance saw Ortega’s men win 25:16 to equal their best-place finish since 2004.


Japan have a near-impossible take to get even a point in France, not least with the hosts, plus Poland, Norway, Russia and Brazil in their group.


However, with the development and fight for places ahead of 2020, plus Ortega’s injection of coaching techniques and education which included, amongst others, trips to Hungary to play Veszprem, Qatar and also France, the Japanese side will be hoping to show signs of competiveness as they aim to test themselves against the world’s best.


Helping them feel not only at home on the court, but off the court too is Chambery Savoie’s Remi Feutrier. Born in Paris, at just three years old he left to settle in the outskirts of Tokyo with his French father and Japanese mother. At the age of nine he discovered handball, going on to win titles in the Asian country. But in 2012, the 23-year-old returned to France to find a club, ending up at the Ligue National 1 side.


Feutrier, who has dual citizenship, told the French press that Ortega’s influence has been great, with the Spanish coach reducing the traditional Japanese reliance on quick tactics and increasing the increased focus on tactics.


Another Japanese player plying his trade in Europe is playmaker Atsushi Mekaru who moved from Hungary to Spain this summer, when he joined ASOBAL side Angel Ximenez in July.


Group at France 2017

Group A: Russia, France, Brazil, Poland, Norway, Japan


Group games at France 2017

All times local


Thursday 12 January: RUS-JPN (17:45)

Friday 13 January: JPN-FRA (17:45)

Sunday 15 January: BRA-JPN (20:45)

Tuesday 17 January: POL-JPN (17:45)

Thursday 19 January: JPN-NOR (20:45)


To view all match information at France 2017 CLICK HERE.


IHF Social Media during France 2017

Follow the 2017 IHF Men’s World Championship on the IHF.info France 2017 mini-site on our website, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Google+.


Official France 2017 channels

Join in the conversation around the world using the hashtag #PhenomenalHandball and through the official France 2017 channels – website (EN), website (FR), Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube


For Japan

Official Federation website: http://www.handball.or.jp and social media channel - Facebook.