Japan may not have the glamour players of four years ago in Thailand, but the under-21 team competing in the Asian Games in Busan is a tight, well-knit unit.
This is according to Urawa Reds' promising young midfielder Keita Suzuki, who will be competing for a place in Japan's engine room when they kick off their campaign against Palestine on Saturday.
"It's true we don't have any star players," admits Suzuki.
"But we are strong as a team. We move well and think together, so this gives us a good advantage."
Japan will compete in Group D against Palestine, Bahrain on Tuesday and Uzbekistan next Saturday.
Only the winner of the six groups will qualify automatically for the quarterfinals, where they will be joined by the best two second-placed teams.
For the first time, the Asian Football Confederation is making the Asian Games football tournament an under-23 competition with room for three over-age players, just like in the Olympics.
But Japan will be at a disadvantage because their team will be strictly under-21. Head coach Masakuni Yamamoto is grooming the team to challenge for a place in the 2004 Athens Olympics, so this 14th edition of the Asian Games marks the starting point of Zico's new-look Japan.
Japan should have no problems beating Palestine, a late replacement for Jordan, at Yangsan on Saturday afternoon, but Bahrain will be much tougher when they clash at Ulsan on Tuesday evening.
Japan's third group match, against the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan at Masan next Saturday, will also be hard, as Uzbekistan won the gold medal at the 1994 Asian Games in Hiroshima, beating China 4-2 in the final at Big Arch.
Yamamoto has plenty of experienced J.League players in his squad, especially in midfield.
Suzuki is progressing well under Hans Ooft at Urawa, while Yuki Abe has been a regular for JEF United Ichihara for several seasons after playing first as a 16-year-old in the J.League.
Kazuyuki Morisaki is a mature, composed midfielder for Sanfrecce Hiroshima, while Naohiro Ishikawa has had an outstanding season on the right side of midfield for FC Tokyo after moving from Yokohama F Marinos. Ishikawa is joined in the squad by FC Tokyo teammate Teruyuki Moniwa.
Two more bright prospects are Tokyo Verdy's young right-back Hayuma Tanaka, and Cerezo Osaka's dazzling forward Yoshito Okubo.
Okubo was outstanding for Kunimi High School in Nagasaki, and has been in great goalscoring form this season, albeit in J2.
Although the team hasn't been given much chance in this tournament, there is a lot of quality in most departments without, as Suzuki admits, stars such as Shinji Ono, who played in the Bangkok Asian Games four years ago.
A team without stars?
That would be music to the ears of the former national coach, Philippe Troussier!