YOKOHAMA – Sanfrecce Hiroshima admit to being worn out going into the Club World Cup, but the newly crowned J. League champions will bank on their confidence and experience to get them past Auckland City on Thursday.
Hiroshima played both legs of the J. League Championship Final last week to mark the end of a long campaign and will be anything but 100 percent fit, manager Hajime Moriyasu said on the eve of the quarterfinal playoff against Auckland at Nissan Stadium.
Sanfrecce and Auckland squared off the last time Hiroshima was in the tournament in 2012, Toshihiro Aoyama scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 victory for Moriyasu’s men who were coming off the first of three J. League titles they would go on to win over the next four years.
Moriyasu said his team might be tired, but still has faith they will march on to the quarterfinals on Sunday in Osaka, where African champions TP Mazembe await.
“We played two hard games to win the J. League championship and we’ll have had only four days to prepare for the Club World Cup so I can’t sit here and say we’re in great shape at the moment,” Moriyasu said.
“But our confidence and experience doesn’t compare to what they were in 2012.”
Aoyama said Auckland, which finished third in the competition last year, is not to be overlooked.
“They look pretty comfortable on the ball and build up their game well from the back,” said Aoyama, the J. League Final MVP. “They’ve got a good striker and have a bit of pace on the wings.”
“But we have pride as J. League champions and want to represent Japan well. I’m looking forward to this competition. And I’m going to score again tomorrow.”
Auckland manager Ramon Tribulietx is fully aware of the challenge Hiroshima poses but hopes to draw a few hints from their 2012 encounter. The Oceania adventurers also have the edge in terms of preparation, having already been in Japan for a full week.
“Hiroshima is obviously very strong on the counterattack. They have quite a few players up front — Douglas, (Hisato) Sato — who can score,” Tribulietx said. “The longer the game goes, the more likely they’re going to score and that’s when you start to lose a bit of patience.”
“It’s a very similar team to 2012 so we’ve got that reference for us. I’m sure every game is different but we understand what happened in that game. In some moments they were dominating but we had a lot of ball in the first and second half, and when we had the ball we were exposed on the counterattack.”
The Club World Cup is back in Japan after being staged in Morocco the last two years.
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