BRISBANE – Australia will be out for payback on Tuesday when they host Japan in a much anticipated rematch of last year’s Asian Cup final.
Holger Osieck’s side opened their final World Cup qualifying campaign on Friday with a 0-0 away draw to Oman, who were thumped 3-0 by Japan last week before a record crowd at Saitama Stadium.
The Asian champions went on to hammer Jordan 6-0 to take a five-point lead over the four other teams in Group B, and Japan could shift into cruise control on the road to Brazil should they beat Australia on Tuesday.
However, defender and former Asian player of the year Sasa Ognenovski said Australia will do everything they can to deny Japan another three points.
“Of course that’s a motivating factor,” Ognenovski said, referring to the Asian Cup final which Japan won 1-0 thanks to Tadanari Lee’s super extra-time volley.
“We felt we probably should have won that, so hopefully we can get the result on Tuesday. I’m not sure what the coaching staff will do. We’ve just got to make sure — like in that game — we play well.”
“We can score goals as well. We got a lot of quality up front. It’s not just a set-piece game or a long-ball game. We can play really good football as we showed at the Asian Cup.”
“I’m sure if we get the chance this time, we’ll take it.”
Ognenovski, looking sleep deprived after a 13-hour journey from the Middle East, said he was well aware Alberto Zaccheroni’s side have completely clicked as a team.
While Shinji Kagawa has been the one under the microscope because of his transfer to Manchester United, he has been anything but alone in doing the damage as the likes of Keisuke Honda, Ryoichi Maeda and Yuto Nagatomo all have stepped up.
“They’ve got quality all over the park,” Ognenovski said. “There’s not one player who you’re going to try and shut down. Everyone’s going to have to be on their game, make sure we play at 100 percent.”
“They’ve scored a lot of goals and they’ve played some really good football over the last couple of games. They haven’t had to travel (as much) which is nice for them.”
“We’ll do our best and try to minimize the damage.”
Australia has been the target of some criticism after starting the final round with a draw, but Ognenovski said a draw in Oman — where temperatures soared well above 40 C — is a perfectly acceptable result as long as they win their home games.
“It wasn’t pleasant over there,” the Seongnam Ilhwa man said. “We did get through the game and we got an away draw, which a lot of people aren’t saying is the best result.”
“But in those circumstances, in the heat, a point is a good result. Hopefully in the cooler temperatures, we can play a lot better. We’ve just got to worry about what we’re doing. Win the games we’re supposed to win and I think everything else will sort itself out.”
“If you can win all your home games and grab a draw here and there in your away games, I think you’re pretty set.”