After being drawn with Australia in the final round of FIFA World Cup qualification for the third time in succession on Tuesday, Japan's representative in Kuala Lumpur was both shocked and not surprised.
“It is amazing that we have Australia – again,” said Masahiro Shimoda, Japan's national team director, with a laugh.
“But then we expected it too. It just always seems to happen.”
Group B with Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Thailand seems to be a little tougher than Group A but most attention will be focused on the meetings between the two big guns.
The first comes in Australia on October 11 with the return taking place in the Land of the Rising Sun on August 31 of the following year.
Australian fans will have the opportunity to see stars such as Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda and Shinji Okazaki in the flesh once again.
“Our games are always big occasions and the fans and media will be as excited as they usually are against Australia,” said Shimoda.
“We will have to be at our best as we have seen that Australia is getting stronger.
“All the games are equally important however and we have to be sure we are ready for all of them. The group is very difficult but Asian teams are getting stronger.”
Saudi Arabia also faced the Caltex Socceroos last time around though was eliminated after finishing in third.
Adrie Koster, assistant coach to Bert Van Marwijk, is hoping for a different outcome this time.
“This is a really difficult group,” said the former Ajax coach. “We will have to play very well to finish in the top two.”
The Green Falcons, who appeared at every World Cup from 1994 to 2006, are feeling confident after topping their group in the second round of qualification, finishing above a talented United Arab Emirates team.
“We played well in the last round,” continued the ex-Netherlands Under-23 boss.
“Australia will give us a different test however. Physically and mentally, they are very strong. We know they are Asian champions so it is a big challenge for us."
With Mohammed Al-Sahlawi, the top scorer of the qualification campaign so far, Saudi Arabia always have a chance and will be looking to take three points off the Caltex Socceroos.
“With our fans behind us at home, we can always do something,” added Kostev. “We are looking forward to these games. We want to show what we can do.”
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