PALEMBANG, Indonesia – Japan captain Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi has warned South Korea to brace for a Samurai Blue backlash when the archrivals face off in the third-place game at the Asian Cup.
Japan coach Ivica Osim and his South Korea counterpart, Pim Verbeek , are both expected to ring the changes for Saturday’s game in Palembang after suffering heartbreaking defeats in the semifinals.
Japan saw its bid for a third straight Asian Cup wrecked after a 3-2 defeat to three-time champion Saudi Arabia while South Korea, which brought a weakened squad to the continental championship, was knocked out in the semifinals by Iraq 4-3 on penalties.
Japan was expected by many to be meeting South Korea in Sunday’s showpiece final in Jakarta but with an automatic berth to the 2011 Asian Cup up for grabs, there should be no shortage of blood and guts in the playoff on Sumatra island.
“We lost in the semis but that’s over and you can be sure that victory (over South Korea) is the only thing on our minds now,” Kawaguchi told Kyodo News.
“We will be going for it because we want to qualify for the Asian Cup and know that victory is the minimum requirement to achieve that,” the veteran goalkeeper added.
Midfielder Keita Suzuki said: “It was no surprise to me that Iraq won their semifinal but for us obviously we wanted to make it to the final and we are gutted that we won’t be in it.
“The most important thing now is to do everything we did wrong right, starting with the next match.”
South Korea arrived in Palembang ahead of Japan and Osim believes that the extra time to prepare has given Verbeek’s side the upper hand.
“We are at a disadvantage but we just have to do what we have to do,” said the 66-year-old Bosnian coach.
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