SAITAMA – Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic has called for 11 samurai warriors for Thursday’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Australia and believes his players have the quality to beat the Socceroos and secure a berth at next year’s finals in Russia.
“Australia are the current Asian champions and we will respect them, but we will be going all out for the win tomorrow,” Halilhodzic told a press conference on the eve of the winner-take-all clash at Saitama Stadium. “We have to show decisiveness and desire and be courageous.
“Obviously we have to respect our opponents, but before that we have to respect ourselves. If you don’t believe in your own potential you restrict yourself and create the impossible. What I need is 11 samurai warriors.”
The Bosnian coach added, “Japanese people are proud of this team and tomorrow is a massive match. We can’t afford to mess up. Nobody is going to give us free tickets to Russia, we have to really be up for it.”
Like Japan, Australia can also qualify for Russia with victory on Thursday.
Saudi Arabia missed the chance to seize the Group B lead from Japan after a 2-1 away defeat against United Arab Emirates in its penultimate final-round qualifier on Tuesday.
That result leaves Saudi Arabia with 16 points, one point behind Japan. Australia has 16 points and UAE 13. Even if Japan fails to beat Australia, the Blue Samurai can secure passage to Russia with a draw away against the Saudis in their final qualifier on Sept. 5.
“You could say that the result (of the Saudi Arabia vs UAE game) is a positive one for both ourselves and Australia. But that doesn’t change our situation or determination,” said Halilhodzic.
Japan has never beaten Australia in World Cup qualifying, losing twice and drawing five times. But Halilhodzic, who reportedly could be out of a job if Japan fails to win on Thursday, said he has left no stone unturned in his quest to break that winless run.
“I have been analyzing Australia for the last two months,” said the former Algeria coach. “I have looked at all the details so when I looked at their squad I could see two possible ways they are going to approach the match, pack the midfield or really try and attack us.
“I know the Australian team like I know my own team and I will be giving as much information as I have to my starting members. We believe that we have the quality to inflict damage on them and we will use all the weapons we have to do that.”