Tonight in Group B of World Cup qualifying Japan host Iraq while Australia travel to the mid east to face Jordan. Currently Japan lead Group B with 7 points from three matches. Iraq meanwhile, have 2 points from two draws. At this early stage we can say with confidence that if Japan take the three points tonight, qualification for World Cup 2014 will be a formality.
Quizzed on his defencive line up, manager Alberto Zaccheroni said, “We had to change around the backline, but we have had good training and our players look fit. I have a faith in them.” Japan will be without three regular defenders in Konno (Gamba Osaka), Uchida (FC Schalke 04), and Kurihara (Yokohama F Marinos). Yuzo Kurihara played a great cameo in Japan’s draw with Australia in Brisbane where he grabbed a goal from a set piece. Urawa Reds defender Tomoaki Makino has been called into the squad. Surely Japan will struggle in transition as a result of the changes and Iraq manager Zico said “There are no secrets in the modern game, you can’t keep anything up your sleeve any more.”
Zico is well known to Japanese soccer aficionados for his contribution at Kashima Antlers in the 90’s. The Brazilian was upbeat but also had this to say about Iraq’s situation, “We haven’t played together since July and I’m not happy we were not able to fix anything on the official FIFA Match days.” This will work against Iraq and if the speed and fluidity of Japan in transition will be hampered tonight, we can say that the overall cohesion of Iraq will be tested also. This could mean a low scoring affair in Saitama.
In Amman, Jordan face Australia who also sit on 2 points from two draws. The Socceroos are expected to try the pairing of Bresciano and Mckay in central midfield after the two showed promising signs as a partnership against Lebanon. The big question mark amongst fans is where to play Holman? He is to good a player to leave out but by putting him in a striker’s support role Australia miss out on a large element of what makes Holman whole: that’s his work rate.