The Socceroos enter into a decisive two-week period with their final three World Cup qualifiers to try and secure an automatic berth to Brazil next year.
Head-to-head Played: 7 - Wins: Japan 3, Australia 2, draws 2
Previous Meeting: Australia 1-1 Japan, AFC World Cup qualifier, June 12, 2012
Past five matches: Japan: Japan 0-2 Bulgaria, International Friendly, May 30, 2013 Jordan 2-1 Japan, World Cup Qualifier, March 27, 2013 Japan 2-1 Canada, International Friendly, March 23, 2013 Japan 3-0 Latvia, International Friendly, February 6, 2013 Oman 1-2 Japan, World Cup Qualifier, November 14, 2012
Australia: Australia 2-2 Oman, World Cup Qualifier, March 26, 2013 Romania 3-2 Australia, International Friendly, February 7, 2013 Australia 8-0 Chinese Taipei, East Asian Qualifiers, December 9, 2012 Australia 9-0 Guam, East Asian Qualifiers, December 7, 2012 Korea DPR 1-1 Australia, East Asian Qualifiers, December 5, 2012
Analysis: The Socceroos enter into a decisive two-week period with their final three World Cup qualifiers to try and secure an automatic berth to Brazil next year.
And its starts with the huge challenge of the might of Japan on their home soil in Saitama.
Holger Osieck's side are currently third in their group - just one point behind Jordan in the second automatic spot - but have a game in hand here which could prove vital.
And the Socceroos boss has gone back to some of his experienced stars to try and get the required points of the final qualifiers.
Bean-pole striker Josh Kennedy and defender Sasa Ognenovski headline the returns while skipper Lucas Neill is also available again after missing the Oman clash through suspension.
The latter pair are expected to start in the heart of the Socceroos defence, with reliable Luke Wilkshire on the right while Matt McKay should get the nod at left-back.
The interesting selection will come in the centre of midfield with Mark Bresciano likely to start along with Mile Jedinak if he proves his fitness following an ankle problem. Mark Milligan or James Holland are waiting in the wings should Jedinak succumb to the injury.
Tim Cahill, Robbie Kruse and Brett Holman should also get spots further forward with either Kennedy or Alex Brosque to fill the last attacking position.
It would seem Japan are expecting Kennedy to start after their skipper Makoto Hasebe said in the build-up he expects the Socceroos to focus on a lot of long balls to the aerial ability of Cahill and company.
Whatever tactics the Socceroos employ, Cahill said they cannot fear the might of the Blue Samurai if they are to pull off a positive result.
"It's a challenge, but it's also an exciting one - the prospect of having it all in our own hands," the New York Red Bulls attacker said.
"If you're not up for it, you shouldn't be here.
"My main objective is to make sure everyone understands that this is a real special time ... it's about enjoying it, embracing it.
"You can put a lot of pressure on yourself, but it's football. It's what we love to do. It's making sure we enjoy training, enjoy the environment we're in and not focus on any negatives."
While Australia's last result - the 2-2 draw with Oman in March, was uninspiring, Japan's most recent results won't fill their fans with a great deal of confidence either.
A defeat to Jordan in their last qualifier two months ago was followed by a 2-0 friendly loss to Bulgaria at the end of last month.
But with only a solitary point needed to book their ticket to Brazil, they will still be confident of getting it done against Australia and will start heavy favourites in this one.
Alberto Zaccheroni has some wonderful players at his disposal including Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa, Atsuto Uchida (Schalke) as well as CSKA Moscow's Keisuke Honda.
Honda is the leading scorer in qualifying in this group and will be a real thorn in the Socceroos side if he plays, with the classy striker in doubt through injury.
The two sides have met on seven previous occasions with Japan holding a slight advantage with three wins to Australia's two (with two draws).
Their previous meeting was earlier in this group stage with the Socceroos coming from a goal down to salvage a 1-1 draw in Brisbane in June of last year.
Degenek not taking his foot off the gas
Twelve months ago, Caltex Socceroos defender Milos Degenek was playing in Japan — now, he’s tearing up Serbia’s SuperLiga, having been named in the league’s best eleven for the first half of the season. It’s a credit to Degenek, 24, who signed with Red Star Belgrade in July
Degenek named in Serbian Superliga's best XI
Caltex Socceroos defender Milos Degenek has been named in the Serbian Superliga’s best eleven players of the first half of the season after his performances for Red Star Belgrade. AUSSIES ABROAD: Sainsbury denies former club Inter in first UCL start READ MORE: Where you can w
FFA to conduct additional injury assessment with Aaron Mooy
Football Federation Australia (FFA) acknowledges Huddersfield Town’s statement regarding Aaron Mooy released on Thursday morning (AEDT). Due to the significance of the AFC Asian Cup to the Caltex Socceroos, FFA will proceed with a plan to deploy its High Performance Coordina
Aussies Abroad: Rogic and Vukovic progress to Europa League Round of 32
The Europa League Round of 32 will have an Aussie flavour after Tom Rogic and Danny Vukovic both sealed their progression to the knockout stage of Europe’s second-tier competition. Rogic played 90 minutes as Celtic did it the hard way, their 2-1 loss at the hands of FC Salzbur