Australia and Japan gun for ultimate glory

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Australia and Japan gun for ultimate glory

Australia and Japan go head-to-head for the Asian Cup title on Saturday, with both of the regional heavyweights showing respect for each other while vowing to lift the trophy.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sat 29 Jan 2011, 10:43 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 7:14 PM

The showpiece match is a fitting finale as Australia and Japan are the highest-ranked Asian teams in the world.

Japan have been here before, having won the tournament three times, while the Socceroos are in their first final.

Japan, though, have a young and inexperienced team in Doha, while the Socceroos boast an ageing squad, making for an intriguing clash.

Neither side have been beaten and both have scored 13 goals.

Whatever happens, they are assured of qualification for the 2015 tournament with the added incentive of an automatic place at the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil — the traditional World Cup warm-up tournament — for the winners.

Having guided J-League stalwarts Urawa Reds to the AFC Champions League title in 2007, Holger Osieck has an insight into Japanese football and remains quietly confident his side can win their first major trophy.

“I promised you we would be here. Lucas (Neill) and the boys have also kept the promise and we are happy to play tomorrow,” said the Australia coach.

“Knowledge is one thing and to transfer it to action is another,” he added, on whether Australia had the edge with his Japanese experience.

“To know is always good and Japan definitely have a strong team. They have a new generation coming up, a lot of new talent and they are technically very good. I expect a very interesting and challenging game.”

German-born Osieck is a master tactician and is expected to stick to the side that thrashed Uzbekistan 6-0 in the semi-finals, meaning Blackburn Rovers’ Brett Emerton could be on the bench again.

The experienced Emerton missed Australia’s quarter-final win over Iraq through suspension and his replacement Matt McKay impressed so much that he kept his place for the Uzbek match.

“I’m a performance-related person and I have to acknowledge performance and not, let’s say, the ability based on names,” said Osieck.

Japan’s Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni, appointed — like Osieck — after the World Cup in South Africa, said he was happy with how his side had equipped themselves so far.

“The togetherness and spirit is fantastic in this team. I’m proud to be in charge of them,” he said.

“I’m very satisfied to have made the final and I like the way we got here too.

“I really respect Australia, they have scored 13 goals, the same as us. They have a good team,” he added.

“It looks like Australia are a more experienced team. Japan are very young but we play as a team and we will organise ourselves to deal with this match.”

They go into the game without star forward Shinji Kagawa, who broke a bone in his foot in their penalty shoot-out win over South Korea in the last four and has flown back to his German club Borussia Dortmund for treatment.

The Blue Samurai players insist that their squad is deep enough to accommodate for his absence.

“He’s a really important player for the team, but in the Asian Cup it’s important to not only play with 11 players but to also have other players ready,” said goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.

With experienced midfielder Daisuke Matsui also unavailable through injury, Zaccheroni will likely have to choose between Yosuke Kashiwagi and Jungo Fujimoto to take Kagawa’s left flank role.

Zaccheroni played down Osieck’s inside knowledge of Japanese football.

“On Mr Osieck, he has been in charge of J-League teams and he probably knows about Japanese football, but we have researched the Australian team well and I know Australia well,” he said.

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