SAITAMA – Coach Alberto Zaccheroni has called for total control when Japan kicks off its 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign against North Korea, and says he is confident that monsoon-like conditions forecast for Friday’s match will not affect the Asian champions’ performance in Saitama.
“We have got to show what we are made of and not just be good for 10 minutes here or 20 minutes there. We have to control for the whole 90 minutes,” Zaccheroni told a news conference on the eve of the match.
“This is where the pressure really starts. The players all know how important this match is and they have done very well in training, are motivated and I have complete trust in them. Over the last year the players have been fantastic both on and off the pitch.”
“North Korea played at the (2010) World Cup and (this year’s) Asian Cup and are a team that are strong as a unit. But if we play like we have been playing I am confident that we will win,” he said.
The Japan Football Association said earlier Thursday that the North Korea match would go ahead as scheduled after fears a powerful typhoon might force the game to be pushed back to Saturday.
Heavy rain brought on by Typhoon Talas, the year’s 12th, is expected Friday, potentially making it difficult for Japan to play its slick passing game. But Zaccheroni insisted the state of the pitch would not be an issue.
“We have got various ways of playing and obviously it would be better for us if we were playing on pitch that is in good condition but we have got the ability to adapt.”
Zaccheroni earlier in the day called up Ventforet Kofu striker Mike Havenaar, currently joint-second top goalscorer in the J. League, to replace injured CSKA Moscow star Keisuke Honda, and said the lanky 24-year-old would give him an extra dimension up front.
“Havenaar is in good form in the league and he brings something different to what the strikers already here have. Hopefully we can bring out his qualities in the games that we have from now.”
North Korea coach Yun Jong Su, whose squad included Japan-based Ryang Yong Gi, An Yong Hak and former Kawasaki Frontale striker Chong Tese, admitted his players will have their work cut out but said they would give as good as they get.
“Tomorrow’s match will be extremely difficult. Japan are very strong opponents but we will try and beat them with more heart and fight,” said Yun.
‘Nadeshiko’ beat Thais
World champion Japan made a winning start to the final round of women’s Asian qualifiers for next year’s London Olympics with a 3-0 win over unfancied Thailand on Thursday.
Coach Norio Sasaki fielded a diluted team, and “Nadeshiko” Japan struggled to break down the Thais until Nahomi Kawasumi ended the deadlock in the 61st minute of the opening game of the tournament.
Asuna Tanaka scored Japan’s second goal in the 75th minute before Thai defender Kwanruethai Kunupatham turned Shinobu Ono’s cross into her own net just before injury time.
“Thailand played well, but we made no mistake in securing the three points,” Sasaki said. “I had thought we should’ve won by at least three goals.”