HANOI — Ivica Osim’s tit-for-tat battle with sections of the press at the Asian Cup finals reached surreal new heights Sunday ahead of defending champion Japan’s final Group B match against cohost Vietnam.
Japan’s cranky coach has made no secret of his disdain for the some of the questioning he has faced during the tournament so far and has cut short some news conferences.
Sunday’s press gathering was no different, with Osim at his cantankerous best as he shooed away queries speculating on the outcome of Monday evening’s match.
“We have a proverb in my country that says it is pointless looking for unborn rabbits in the forest,” the Bosnian said.
“I’m not in the speculation business. We could lose. There are several mathematical equations involved. You have calculators — you work it out!”
Japan leads Group B on goal difference ahead of the Vietnamese. Osim’s men can afford to lose and still qualify for the quarterfinals if Qatar fails to beat the United Arab Emirates in the other group match in Ho Chi Minh City.
Osim cooled down enough to suggest it was the cohost’s biggest ever match and that home advantage could play a part.
“This is a very important game for the Vietnamese team, the biggest match in their history,” Osim said.
“It’s a difficult one to predict but Vietnam are the team that have all the advantages. They are used to the climate, will be at home and will have tremendous support.”
If the Japanese finish top of the group they will stay in Hanoi for the quarterfinals and semifinals instead of hitting the road and playing their last-eight match in Bangkok and last-four match in Kuala Lumpur.
Again, Osim gave short shrift to a question over whether he was concerned about any possible travel.
“Whether we stay in Hanoi or not is not really an issue. I’m not here as a holidaymaker,” the Bosnian coach snapped. “Our main objective is to make sure we qualify. That’s all I’m thinking about at the moment.”
Osim also refused to discuss whether Naohiro Takahara, who scored twice in the 3-1 victory over the UAE before he came off feeling sick, was fit to play or whether Keita Suzuki had recovered from an injury picked up in the last match.
“Is there a doctor in the house? That’s not my job!” barked Osim.
But despite Osim’s reticence, news coming out of the camp suggests both will be ready to start.
Osim ended the news conference by seemingly baiting the Japan Football Association into taking action on the coach if he fails to lead the team into the quarterfinals.
“I would be upset if nobody asked me what I would do if we lose tomorrow,” Osim said. But when journalist asked the question, Osim snapped: “Don’t ask me! Ask the JFA!”
Meanwhile, in a far more relaxed news conference, Vietnam coach Alfred Riedl praised his players for what they have achieved so far in the tournament and called for one last big effort.
“Even if we cannot go to the quarterfinals I think what we have done until now is a big achievement. As long as we don’t play like girls I will be happy.”
“We must play like men. If we lose 4-0 I won’t be disappointed as long as we make a big effort.”
Riedl doesn’t expect the partisan Vietnamese support that has rocked My Dinh Stadium the last two matches to rattle Japan.
“Playing in front of 40,000 fans is not a problem for Japan because they have players that are used to it. Even a noisy crowd won’t bother them,” said Austrian coach Riedl.
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