Australia v Japan Preview
HANOI: All of Asia is set for the fixture of these championships – Australia, the brash Asian Cup newcomers and pre-tournament favourites, against Japan, the traditional heavyweights of the region and three-time champions.
HANOI: All of Asia is set for the fixture of these championships - Australia, the brash Asian Cup newcomers and pre-tournament favourites, against Japan, the traditional heavyweights of the region and three-time champions.
Perhaps earlier than most had expected, Australia and Japan will meet at Vietnam-s My Dinh National Stadium later tonight in a quarter-final match up that promises to be a classic.
In one corner - Australia, who have been below-par in recent times, and have admitted as much.
Of the four seeded teams at these championships, only Australia and the Korea Republic have failed to top their respective groups.
An inspired 4-0 thrashing of tournament surprise packets Thailand last Monday has reinvigorated Socceroo hopes of lifting the Asian Cup trophy in Jakarta in one week-s time, though Australia have almost certainly relinquished their favourites tag by virtue of their at times tepid showings at the Rajamangla National Stadium in Group A.
On the other hand, Japan, one of the aforementioned seeded teams, has looked as good as any of the nations on show at these championships.
Having suffered an ill-deserved sucker punch against Group B opponents Qatar in their opening match to draw 1-1, Japan have been exceptional in downing two tenacious opponents in the United Arab Emirates and co-hosts Vietnam in their final group games - knocking in seven goals and conceding just two in the process.
With memories of their unforgettable match up of one year earlier in the forest surrounds of Germany-s south, Australia and Japan-s meeting in Vietnam-s capital city later tonight has attracted the attention of all that have gathered in south east Asia.
"Just knowing that we've got no other games to lean back on, it suits our character as a team," said Socceroos midfielder Mark Bresciano in the lead up to the match.
"And, as we've seen in the past, that's when we perform better as a team. We can step up on these big occasions.
"We give everything we have, we don't die off too easily and if there's just a little possibility of winning, we're going to take it."
Australia-s preparations for the match were disrupted earlier this week when it was confirmed that Dutch based midfielder Luke Wilkshire would be sidelined after collecting his second yellow card of the championships against Thailand last Monday.
Wilkshire-s absence opens the door for any number of Australia-s star-laden bench to assume a leading role against Japan, including 2006 destroyer Tim Cahill.
Cahill has been spared by coach Graham Arnold so far these championships, having only very recently recovered from breaking his fifth metatarsal the better part of four months ago.
Aside from Cahill, Arnold can also call upon defensive lynchpin Lucas Neill, who has served his one-match suspension earned after his red card against Iraq last week, and may recall Liverpool flyer Harry Kewell, who impressed after coming on against Thailand on Monday.
Whichever formation and line up Arnold decides on, Australia will have their work cut out against a side that are widely tipped to claim a third consecutive regional showpiece later this month.
Japan coach, Bosnian Ivica Osim, has stated in the press this morning that Australia will be the toughest opponents the Blue Samurai have faced during his tenure, and are also the sternest test that could possibly await his team at these championships.
Leading the Japanese charge will be brilliant attacking midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura, the current Scottish Premier League player of the year and arguably the standout performer at these championships so far.
Aside from Nakamura and striker Naohiro Takahara, Japan-s line up is sourced entirely from the local J.League - a testament to the strength of one of the world-s most rapidly emerging domestic competitions.
Revenge for their FIFA World Cup capitulation in Kaiserslautern will surely be one of the pre-eminent thoughts dominating the Japanese line up tonight, while Australia are as unwavering in their quest to be crowned Asia-s best for the first time.
Reigning Asian Cup champions Japan now stand between Australia and a semi final berth, with the Socceroos set to take on their nemeses of one year ago at Hanoi-s My Dinh Stadium this coming Saturday, 21 July. Kick off is at 8.20pm AEST.
Fox Sports will feature live and exclusive coverage of the match from 8pm AEST. Click here for the entire Fox Sports broadcast schedule.
The match will also be covered in full by ABC Radio, while there is a live score update available from the home page.
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