HANOI — Ivica Osim has admitted the Japanese are in a “dangerous position” at the Asian Cup finals after their stuttering start against Qatar and called for an improved performance in Friday evening’s Group B game against the United Arab Emirates.

News photoJapan’s veteran striker Naohiro Takahara trains in his team’s final workout before Friday’s game against the United Arab Emirates in Hanoi.

The Japan coach was seething after watching his side throw away the lead against Qatar in the dying moments of Monday’s match and said defeat against the UAE is unthinkable as it would put a serious dent in the three-time champions’ hopes of advancing to the knockout stages.

“We are in a very dangerous position,” said Osim on Thursday. “The UAE are a very dangerous team and that is what I fear the most.

“The way we played against Qatar was better than the way the UAE played against Vietnam, but we can play even better against the UAE. I don’t think we will be defeated otherwise I wouldn’t do this job.”

Osim looked ill at ease throughout Thursday’s press conference after a testing week that began with him branding his players “a bunch of amateurs” in a tirade after the Qatar match that, according to Shunsuke Nakamura, reduced the coach’s interpreter to a blubbering wreck.

And the cranky coach snapped when asked about how confident he was in leading Japan to victory at the final in Jakarta on July 29.

“If I’d been told before I took the job that one of the conditions was to win the Asian Cup I wouldn’t have signed the contract,” said Osim.

“My job is to improve the level of the Japan side and build a team for the 2010 World Cup. The Asian Cup is an important step to achieving that goal but it is a step toward a bigger goal.”

Meanwhile, central defender Yuji Nakazawa said his teammates couldn’t afford to make any more errors like the foul fellow center-back Yuki Abe committed that brought about Sebastian Quintana’s free-kick equalizer in the game against Qatar.

“In the last game, the team played bad and there is no room for mistakes in the game tomorrow,” the Yokohama F. Marinos man said.

Nakazawa also brushed off accusations from the likes of Qatar coach Dzemaludin Musovic that the Japanese have got too big for their boots and are struggling to motivate themselves against some of the lesser lights of world football at the finals.

“I don’t think the Asian Cup is not a big deal. Every game I play for Japan is a big deal,” said Nakazawa. “And playing against the likes of Qatar, or other Asian countries, is an enjoyable experience.

UAE coach Bruno Metsu called for his players to bounce back from their shock 2-0 defeat to cohost Vietnam in their opening match if they are to have any chance of advancing to the quarterfinals.

“We definitely need to get points from tomorrow’s match and we’ll do our best to get three points,” said the former Senegal coach. “We’ll do our best to produce a big performance against Japan.

“I hope my players give a good reaction against Japan. The players were upset after the first match. Japan has a good team, the best in the competition and they were unlucky in the last match against Qatar. I hope they not lucky against us.”

Japan plays Vietnam in their final group match on Monday.

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