SAITAMA – Coach Takeshi Okada will be hoping his players show a more ruthless streak in front of goal as Japan looks to move further toward qualification for the 2010 World Cup finals with victory over Uzbekistan on Wednesday.
Japan spurned countless chances in last week’s 1-1 draw with the United Arab Emirates, and Okada has been putting his players through extra shooting practice behind closed doors in training ahead of the Asian zone Group A meeting.
Okada has admitted there is little he can do about a lack of a cutting edge in attack that has long been Japan’s Achilles heel, but hopes his players get it right on Wednesday.
“It is not a problem I can fix. There is no miracle drug,” said Okada. “We are creating chances and it is simply just a case of putting them away.
“We have been practicing shooting but you can’t think it is OK just to put the ball away in training and you’re done. It is something that we have to continue.”
Japan kicked off the final round of qualifiers with a 3-2 victory away to Bahrain last month and looks a good bet to make it two wins out of two against an Uzbekistan side that has made a dreadful start to the campaign.
The Uzbeks came into the final round as one of the form teams but has lost twice, conceded four goals, scored none and was thrashed 3-0 away by South Korea in a friendly at the weekend.
“That they (Uzbekistan) have lost two games is neither here nor there. It is about us doing everything we can to win,” said Okada.
“I saw the first half of the South Korea game but they changed eight players in the second half. Apart from the early goal they conceded I felt Uzbekistan did OK.”
Okada looks set to welcome back injury-prone Marcus Tulio Tanaka to the center of defense alongside Yuji Nakazawa after the Urawa Reds star missed the UAE game in Niigata because of Urawa’s involvement in the Asian Champions League.
Club teammate Yuki Abe is expected to fill in at left back for Yuto Nagatomo, who has pulled out of the squad on the eve of the game with a groin injury.
Yasuhito Endo, who was also absent as Gamba Osaka and Urawa drew in the first leg of the ACL semifinals last week, will also be hoping to start, while Okada looks set to keep faith with Keiji Tamada, despite a woeful performance in the last game, putting the Nagoya Grampus speedster ahead of Yoshito Okubo, Shinji Okazaki and Shunsuke Nakamura.
Qatar currently leads Group A with four points from two games, one more than Japan and Australia who have both played only once. Bahrain is fourth with a point from two games with Uzbekistan propping up the table.
Qatar travels to Brisbane to face Australia in the only other Group A game on Wednesday.