Wednesday 12 January 2011

Asian Cup Special 3 - Japan vs. Syria preview

Japan go into their second Asian Cup group match against Syria in Doha on Thursday with their hopes of qualification in the balance after a pair of surprising results on Sunday evening.

Hours after Alberto Zaccheroni’s side had rescued a 1-1 draw against Jordan thanks to a stoppage time header from Maya Yoshida, the Syrians - supposedly the weakest team in the pool with a world ranking of 107 - produced the shock of the tournament so far by beating three-times champions Saudi Arabia 2-1 in Al-Rayyan.

The Japan manager described the latter match as “almost an exact copy of our game versus Jordan”, with the more highly fancied Saudis dominating possession for much of the 90 minutes but repeatedly frustrated in the final third of the pitch by a Syria side that defended in numbers.

He admits, however, that while tomorrow night’s opponents will be expected to adopt a similar mindset against Japan, this can be no excuse for any further setbacks.

“Our team is surely capable of better,” said Zaccheroni before training on Monday. “If our opponents come to defend then we cannot attack like we did against Jordan. We need to be faster.

“Syria will likely play the same way again, but even so, we still have to beat them. If Japanese football is going to develop then this is a team we must be able to defeat.”

In a change from Japan’s opening fixture, Shinji Kagawa looks likely to be granted a central attacking midfield role from the start having given the side more fluency after switching from the left flank midway through the second half on Sunday. It is a position in which the 21-year-old has excelled so far this season at Borussia Dortmund having been granted greater freedom by coach Jürgen Klopp, despite being customarily used on the left during his J. League career with Cerezo Osaka.

Kagawa insisted after the Jordan match that “I need to be able to play on the left as well… but if I’m honest, I find it far easier in the middle”.

Even Keisuke Honda, who started centrally against Jordan, conceded that things went better for Japan after he was moved to the right. Should Zaccheroni remain faithful to the familiar 4-2-3-1 system, Shinji Okazaki would be favourite to fill in on the left-hand side with Daisuke Matsui dropping to the bench, but rumours persist in the Japanese media that the Italian may switch to a back three in order to accommodate an additional attacking player.

The latter scenario could mean a debut for Kashima Antlers defender Masahiko Inoha, although full-backs Atsuto Uchida and Yuto Nagatomo remain in contention after recovering from knocks picked up in the opener.

Inoha was quoted as saying yesterday that “Zaccheroni told me he still wasn’t sure if he was going to play three at the back, but he wanted me to be prepared for it”.

Japan have drawn one and won six of their seven past meetings with Syria, most recently a 3-1 friendly win in Kobe in 2008, but are expecting to be made to feel like the away side in Doha after witnessing the highly vocal travelling support their opponents enjoyed against Saudi Arabia.


Group C favourites Australia and South Korea both got off to a promising start on Monday with wins over India and Bahrain respectively, but defending champions Iraq lost 2-1 to neighbours Iran in their opening Group D fixture yesterday. North Korea could only draw 0-0 with the United Arab Emirates after Hong Yong-Jo missed a first half penalty.

AFC Asian Cup results
Group C
India 0-4 Australia
South Korea 2-1 Bahrain

Group D
North Korea 0-0 United Arab Emirates
Iraq 1-2 Iran

posted by Ben Mabley at 17:49 | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) | Minutecast | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする
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