JAPAN will be looking to restore their damaged reputation in Asian soccer when they defend the Marlboro Dynasty Cup in Hong Kong next week. The third edition of the four-nation tournament - organised by the sport's continental governing body, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) - will feature holders Japan, South Korea, China and, for the first time, Hong Kong, who are stepping in for the unavailable North Koreans. The action starts at the Hong Kong Stadium next Sunday with Hong Kong meeting Japan in the opening match, followed by China against South Korea. After a round-robin competition, the leading two teams will contest the final at the Hong Kong Stadium on Sunday, February 26, when the winners will collect US$200,000 of the US$570,000 prizemoney. While China and South Korea will give big-match experience to their Olympic (Under-23) players in qualifying year for the 1996 Games in Atlanta, the Dynasty Cup holders will be leaving nothing to chance and have named a squad which reads like a Who's Who of the J.League. Under head coach Shu Kamo, Japan's provisional squad of 30 players includes goalkeeper Shigetatsu Matsunaga (Yokohama Marinos), defenders Masami Ihara (Marinos) and Satoshi Tsunami (Verdy Kawasaki), midfield stars Tetsuji Hashiratani (Verdy), Hajime Moriyasu (Sanfrecce Hiroshima) and Tsuyoshi Kitazawa (Verdy) and strikers Yoshiyuki Hasegawa (Kashima Antlers) and Koji Noguchi (Bellmare Hiratsuka). Kamo is Japan's third head coach in just over a year and knows that the national team must get back on the right track to help the country's bid for the 2002 World Cup. 1992 was a golden year for Japan when they won the second Dynasty Cup in Beijing in August, beating South Korea on penalties in the final, and followed up with a 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in the Asian Cup final in Hiroshima - Japan's first triumph in 10 editions of the continental championship. Both those successes came under Dutch coach Hans Ooft and Japan were firmly on course to qualify for their first World Cup when they led Iraq 2-1 in their final qualifying game in Qatar in October 1993. With only seven seconds left on the clock, however, Iraq equalised and Japan's hopes sank into the Doha desert. Ooft stood down as national coach to take over at Jubilo Iwata and, in March 1994, the Football Association of Japan appointed Brazilian Paulo Roberto Falcao on a nine-month contract. Falcao, one of Brazil's brilliant midfield quartet in the 1982 World Cup and with Roma in Italy, could not produce the magic as a coach and his new-look Japan tumbled out of the 1994 Asian Games at the quarter-final stage, losing 3-2 to arch-rivals South Korea. That defeat signalled the end of Falcao's short reign and he was replaced last December by Kamo, formerly with the Yokohama Flugels in the J.League. Kamo's first assignment was the Inter-continental Championship in Saudi Arabia last month but Japan lost 3-0 to African champions Nigeria and 5-1 to Argentina, despite the presence of superstar striker Kazuyoshi Miura, now with Genoa in Italy. So Kamo, in particular, and Japan, in general, will be looking to improve their status at the Dynasty Cup. The team can expect huge support from the expatriate Japanese community and their every move will be followed by a news-hungry pack of 86 Japanese media. After taking on a Hong Kong side bolstered by three overseas players from the domestic first division next Sunday, Japan meet 1990 Dynasty Cup champions South Korea the following Tuesday and China on Thursday. Korea's squad includes World Cup sweeper Hong Myung-bo, the AFC's Defender of the Year 1994, while China will be spearheaded by Li Bing, the country's Footballer of the Year last season.