Japan captain Makoto Hasebe urged his team to sharpen up for Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against Australia, saying the victories over Oman and Jordan are a thing of the past.
Japan will try to make it three wins out of three against Australia in their first away test of the final round, after dominating Oman and Jordan at home in the past week with a total of nine goals and none against.
But Hasebe, who will face his old coach in Holger Osieck from their days together at Urawa Reds, said after training on Sunday the Japanese players must approach Australia with a mindset different to the one from the Oman and Jordan games.
“This game will be a completely different animal to the first two games,” Hasebe said. “We’re definitely on a roll with the two wins, but we need to forget about it and regroup for the next one.”
“Complacency comes from the mind so we can’t let up mentally. We need to brace ourselves for something totally different.”
The rivalry that began at the 2006 World Cup could be tilting toward Japan with manager Alberto Zaccheroni having in his hands a group of talented players such as Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and Yuto Nagatomo who are just hitting their peak.
Osieck, on the other hand, has not enjoyed such luxury. Australia have been unable to pass on the torch to a new generation of players from the likes of Harry Kewell and Lucas Neill, who have been part of the core since Germany.
Hasebe, though, said the veterans cannot be written off just yet and still demand Japan’s full attention.
“It obviously depends on what kind of team they put out there, but they have a lot of players with experience,” the Wolfsburg man said. “On the other hand, they could have agility issues because of their age.”
“But one thing is certain: they’ll play with the pride of having carried the team for as long as they have.”
It remains to be seen what kind of team Osieck will send out at Suncorp Stadium, where the Socceroos will be looking to follow in the footsteps of the Wallabies who beat Wales on Saturday at the same ground.
Hasebe is convinced the hosts will turn to their strength and size at some point, after Osieck left Everton’s Tim Cahill and Josh Kennedy of Nagoya Grampus on the bench against Oman — perhaps to save the two aerial threats for the Japan game.
“We won’t be able to win headers as easily as we did against Oman and Jordan,” Hasebe said. “There’s a good chance they’ll bring on players with size so we’ll have to chase down the loose balls.”