AMMAN – Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni wants his players to ignore the result of Australia’s game against Oman ahead of the Asian champions’ crunch World Cup qualifier versus Jordan on Tuesday.
A draw between Australia and Oman in the day’s first match in Group B would leave runaway leader Japan needing just a point in Amman to become the first team to qualify and join host Brazil in next year’s finals.
But Zaccheroni, looking ahead to his biggest game since taking over as head coach in the fall of 2010, said, “Obviously it is impossible for me to keep the players away from looking at the result on the Internet but we can’t let it affect us.”
“We need to be focused and just concentrate on the game in front of us,” the Italian tactician told a packed news conference.
“This is a massive match for us and of course there is pressure on myself and the players. We are carrying the hopes of everyone back home but I can’t let the pressure get to the players and it is my job to make sure they are ready tomorrow.”
Captain Makoto Hasebe added, “Jordan are a tough team but we have had a good training camp (in Doha). We are here in Jordan now and have training later today. If we can get ourselves acclimatized properly I think we can win.”
Japan thrashed Jordan 6-0 behind a hat trick from CSKA Moscow star Keisuke Honda back in June, but Zaccheroni is expecting Tuesday’s game to be anything but easy.
“Jordan have picked up points at home and their (2-1) win against Australia will have given them confidence,” he said. “They will have home support behind them and will be a very different team to the one we faced last time.”
Honda has been suffering from an unspecified illness and is not in the squad. Inter Milan defender Yuto Nagatomo is also out as he makes his way back from a torn knee ligament.
Yasuyuki Konno, Yuzo Kurihara, Hiroshi Kiyotake and Gotoku Sakai have all recovered from minor fitness issues in Doha, where Japan labored to a 2-1 win over Canada in its final warmup.
“As I have said before, it is a shame we don’t have Honda and Nagatomo because they have both made big contributions to the team, but the players who have deputized for them in the past have done well and I expect the same tomorrow,” said Zaccheroni.
Jordan is at the bottom of the table with four points but still has a chance of qualifying as it is just one point behind Australia, Oman and Iraq.
Jordan coach Adnan Hamad is well aware of the task facing his side but says he has no injury worries and his players are ready for battle.
“It is a massive game for us but we are well prepared and will try to win. Japan might not have Honda available but I saw the Canada game and know the team has strength in depth,” said the former Iraq coach.
“The last time we played Japan we were away from home and the players were tired but we are at home now and have our supporters behind us.”