• Kyodo


Ivica Osim hopes an old friend will not turn into a foe by putting a dent in his side’s Asian Cup preparations as Japan take on international new boys Montenegro in their Kirin Cup opener on Friday.

The Bosnian coach has admitted he has little information on his opponents, but has been friends with Montenegro coach Zoran Filipovic since his own time in charge of the former Yugoslavia and knows the Montenegrins will need no extra motivation to mark their acceptance as FIFA’s 208th member association with victory at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa.

“The only knowledge I have of the current Montenegro team is the video footage I watched of the only other game they have played this year,” said Osim, referring to the Montenegrins’ 2-1 win against Hungary in March.

“I am certain they will be highly motivated to win on this occasion. That said, it doesn’t mean they will be any more motivated than we are. Don’t forget we are representing a nation too,” he said.

Osim, missing star midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura because of a bruised ankle, has recalled European-based midfielders Junichi Inamoto and Koji Nakata for the Montenegro game and next week’s meeting with Colombia in Saitama.

Inamoto, who signed for Eintracht Frankfurt on Tuesday, and Basel utility player Nakata only arrived back in Japan on Wednesday and Osim refused to be drawn when asked if either would play on Friday.

“As far as I know the Kirin Cup is two games and I am not going to back myself into a corner by saying who I am going play and then not play them,” he said.

Filipovic said he is expecting a tough game against Japan.

“This is our second game of the year but we have just been accepted by FIFA. It will be a historic game and it is an honor to be invited to the Kirin Cup,” he said.

“Osim’s teams have always played attacking, attractive football. Japan play modern soccer and are quick. We need to pay close attention to players like strikers (Naohiro) Takahara and (Seiichiro) Maki,” he said.

Montenegro is weakened in the absence of two of its most talented players, Roma striker Mirko Vucinic and Rapid Vienna midfielder Branko Boskovic. Both miss out through injury.

The Montenegro national team came into existence after last year’s World Cup finals in Germany. In that competition the now independent states of Serbia and Montenegro competed as a united team but failed to advance past the group stage.

Japan takes on Colombia next Tuesday in its final tune up before kicking off its defense of the Asian Cup, which is being cohosted by Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia from July 7-29.

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