The Caltex Socceroos’ ‘generation next’ are catching the eye of a throng of Japanese media in Melbourne for Tuesday night's huge World Cup qualifier with Japan at Docklands.
Around 100 media representatives have been accredited for the clash, underlining how big this group B clash is back in Japan.
The likes of Mathew Leckie, Robbie Kruse, Tom Rogic, Massimo Luongo, Tomi Juric and Aaron Mooy have been keys to Australia’s fine performances of late and the Caltex Socceroos’ main AFC rivals is taking notice.
In the lead up to Tuesday night’s match in Melbourne, www.socceroos.com.au spoke with NHK TV sports reporter Nozomi Kunitake.
“We have seen with Australia that the next generation is coming up in the team as well,” she told www.socceroos.com.au.
“It’s not only Tim Cahill that is a big player anymore. Other forward players like [Mathew] Leckie, Robbie Kruse and [Tomi] Juric are known in Japan as well.
“Australia has a lot of dangerous players now and play very good football…very similar to Japan.
“It should be an unbelievable match.”
During Caltex Socceroos training on Sunday there were cameras from six TV networks and journalists from all the country’s leading newspapers, while there will be 60 photographers on the pitch on Tuesday night.
While Japanese media always follows the national team in big numbers, it’s a staggering figure considering the Japanese team is only in Australia for four days.
“Australia is the biggest rival to Japan. In this group they are the best two teams so all journalists know this is going to be the biggest game,” Kunitake said.
“The Australian team is very strong and is the most dangerous for us. That’s why [so much media] come here for it.
“It’s a very important game in the group, especially as it’s all very close. This is a game that is important [Japan] win.
“So I think that’s why it will be a great game.”
Kunitake has been impressed by the form of the Caltex Socceroos in qualifying so far, believing they are in better touch than Japan at the moment.
Japan lost their opening qualifier at home to the UAE before bouncing back to win their last two games against Thailand away (2-0) and at home against Iraq last week (2-1).
But that win over Iraq only came after substitute Hotaru Yamaguchi scored a winner in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
“Japan has not been performing as good as they can,” Kunitake noted.
“A lot of the players are now playing in European leagues and while this is good, they don’t get a lot of time together anymore so it’s been difficult.
“Of course, winning games is important but they will want the performances to be better.”