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Asia's first World Cup marks the debut--finally--of China on the game's greatest stage. After 44 years of reaching for the top, Bora Milutinovic's side sent the world's most populous nation into a state of football frenzy as they qualified for Korea-Japan 2002.
On the way to the finals, the Chinese brushed aside Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Oman with ease, losing just once to finally bring to an end years of failure at the top level and a reputation as the continent's greatest underachievers.
And yet while the Chinese are preparing to face four-time World Cup winning nation Brazil as well as Turkey and Costa Rica, envious glances continue to be shot towards Japan and the progress that has been made here in recent years.
For while China has at last reached the finals of the World Cup, they still fall a long way short of matching the development achieved in Japan since …