Caltex Socceroo striker Nathan Burns will have some handy insights when Australia face a star-studded Japan in a blockbuster World Cup qualifier in Australia on October 11.
The 28-year-old FC Tokyo forward trains alongside two Samurai Blue defenders each week in the J-League's top flight.
“Our two [FC Tokyo] centre-backs are in the national team squad of Japan. Masato Morishige and Yuichi Maruyama.
"So I know plenty about them.
“I play against them every day…they are quite good defenders,” Burns, a second half substitute overnight as FC Tokyo drew 1-1 with Sanfreece Hiroshima, told www.socceroos.com.au.
October's clash promises to be titanic and technically high-quality.
Australia, the reigning Asian Cup champions with the likes of Tom Rogic, Aaron Mooy and Japan’s nemesis Tim Cahill meeting a fabulous Samurai Blue.
It's a squad that includes EPL winner Shinji Okazaki, Maya Yoshida of Southampton, Borussia Dortmund’a Shinji Kagawa and Inter’s Keisuke Honda and Yuto Nagatomo – as well as the cream of J1 talent.
Before that though, the Socceroos begin their final phase of World Cup qualification on September 1.
They open with a clash against Iraq in Perth on September 1, followed by an away tie against Asian Cup semi finalists UAE on September 6 before another road trip on October 6 to Saudi Arabia.
Burns, and 2014/15 Hyundai A-League Johnny Warren Medallist, has enjoyed his first year in the top flight of Japanese football after signing for the Gasmen in July 2015.
The NSW country product says the Japanese system has impressed him.
“The league in Japan is set up unbelievable. It’s at a really good level, the facilities, fans, sponsors. And there’s a strong J2, with some massive clubs.
“Even J3, our youth team play in that league and it is also professional. And I’ve a friend who is a coach in J5 and it’s unbelievable.
"A lot of the universities have a J5 team. J5 university players tend to go J1 teams so if you watch J5 it’s phenomenal, they are just really young and talented.”
Coincidentally, the Hyundai A-League and J-League have recently signed a MOU to share knowledge, experience and technical know-how.
“(Japan) is different to China and Korea. They put a bit more money into their players’ welfare and they try and take care of them a lot better," added Burns.
“They have great staff, it’s one thing I’ve noticed between Japan and Korea. In Korea my body was hanging but not so much in Japan.”
The former Adelaide United, AEK Athens, Kerkyra (loan), Incheon United, Newcastle Jets (loan) and Wellington Phoenix striker is, perhaps unsurprisingly, hoping to stay longer in the J-League.
“I need a big year this year to hopefully get an extension. I’m quite happy there and the family is loving it. I’m quite happy to stay there for a few years.”
And the former Adelaide favourite was a keen observer of the recent Hyundai A-League Grand Final – albeit on social media.
“I couldn’t watch [the grand final]. We were travelling. I was trying to stream it on the bus on the way to the airport but couldn't.
“But I was refreshing Twitter and reading all the comments. I’ve seen the highlights. It looked like a great occasion for the club, a great occasion for the A-League.”
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