National team manager Vahid Halilhodzic’s willingness to take risks has worked out well in recent months, and Japan will be hoping that his instincts continue to pay off in its upcoming World Cup qualifier against Iraq.

Japan takes on Syria in Tokyo next Wednesday in a tune-up for the June 13 clash against the Iraqis in neutral Tehran, with Halilhodzic’s side sitting pretty on top of qualifying Group B on goal difference ahead of Saudi Arabia. A win over Iraq would move Japan tantalizingly close to a spot at Russia 2018, although remaining fixtures against third-place Australia and the Saudis mean the battle for qualification could go all the way to the wire.

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