HANOI — Ivica Osim told reporters to “get a life” as his patience wore thin over constant quizzing about Japan’s World Cup loss to Australia last year and said the result won’t have an effect on Saturday’s Asian Cup quarterfinal clash between the two teams.
“If you were shocked by the Australia result, maybe you didn’t know too much about the Australia team, but people have now had a year to get over the result,” the Bosnian coach said Friday. “You need to get over it and get on with your life.”
“I think the stronger team won last year’s game (a 3-1 victory for Australia) but the Japanese also were a little unlucky.”
The cranky coach admitted, though, that the defending champions’ game against the Aussies, making their first appearance in the competition, would be the most difficult test so far of his reign as coach.
“Since I became coach we have only had a few friendly matches against the likes of Ghana,” said Osim. “During the first round, Australia was a little tired because of the weather and, of course, even the strongest teams can’t play at 100 percent like that.
“But they have been like Brazil in the Copa America, who started badly and later became very good.” (Brazil went on to win the tournament.)
Japan’s first XI has been revamped since Osim took over from Zico, but the new coach insisted his players had enough experience to cope against an Aussie lineup filled with big-name stars.
“Experience is very important. In the Australia team, there are a lot of players who appeared in the last game,” said Osim. “There has been a lot of change in the last year but the new players here have enough experience to play against Australia.”
Keita Suzuki is carrying a calf injury going into the game and Japan’s “water carrier” said he would have to wait to see whether he’ll be able to continue his run of featuring in every game of Osim’s reign.
“It’s the calf that I have the problem with. It’s fine when I’m just walking on it but it tightens up when I run. I’ll see how it reacts to training today,” said Suzuki, in line for his 14th straight appearance for the Bosnian coach.
“The coach seems to like me. My job is to do the dirty work to get our best players on the ball. I intend to take some part in the game.”
Meanwhile, Australia coach Graham Arnold said he hoped his team would kill off the game long before the prospect of a penalty shootout became reality.
“We’ll be ready for penalties, but let’s hope it doesn’t get to that,” said Arnold. “I’m thinking of winning in 90 minutes — you prepare for penalties but that’s just in case.”
Arnold, like Osim, refused to compare the game with the World Cup clash a year ago.
“It’s a totally different competition, different places, different coaches,” said Arnold. “It’s going to be a very difficult game. Japan are a very good side and we are going to have to perform at our best to be successful, but the 4-0 victory over Thailand (in their last group match) gave us a lot of confidence.”
Aussie striker Mark Viduka, a recent free signing for Newcastle United, refused to be drawn when asked what his opinion was on central defender Yuji Nakazawa’s recent comments that Japan would win 3-0.
“I don’t like predicting results — if I could I’d probably put a bet on it and I’m not really a gambler!” Viduka said. “They are the holders, though, and so are definitely the favorites of the tournament, but we are also quietly confident.”
Viduka said he was looking forward to renewing acquaintances with Nakazawa, to whom he gave a torrid time in last year’s World Cup clash.
“The last time we met I found him a very difficult defender to play against. He’s big, strong and very mobile and a very difficult player,” said Viduka of the Yokohama F. Marinos central defender.
Liverpool’s Champions League winner Harry Kewell was just looking forward to a game he said would rival the highlights of his career.
“For any footballer to enter a competition and get through to the quarterfinals is a massive step,” said Kewell. “So it’s definitely up there as one of the biggest games.”
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.