TOKYO - Japan will face furnace-like
conditions and a hostile crowd when their under-22 side look to
finish off Kuwait on Thursday and reach the final round of 2012
A 3-1 victory in the home leg should be enough but with
temperatures nudging 50 degrees Celsius in Kuwait during the
day, Japan can take nothing for granted.
Players were already complaining of the heat, plus the sandy
dust whipped up on the wind during training.
"I didn't expect this," midfielder Hiroshi Kiyotake told the
Sankei Sports. "My throat and eyes hurt."
Japan, bidding to reach their fifth successive Olympic Games
at London next year, will, however, be boosted by the return
from injury of striker Kensuke Nagai.
"I'm fit and want to play," said Nagai, whose replacement
Yuya Osako scored in the first leg. "The competition is pretty
fierce but I want to prove worth to the team."
Japan have flopped badly in the Middle East before, most
painfully when their senior side conceded an equaliser to Iraq
with qualification for the 1994 World Cup just minutes away.
Olympic coach Takashi Sekizuka insisted his side were
prepared to avoid a repeat of what Japanese fans and media still
refer to as the "Tragedy of Doha".
Sekisuka said: "The mental side will be key. We've never
been to the Middle East at this time of year but we will deal
with the situation.
"We need to stay attack-minded, be aggressive and take the
game to them."
Kuwait coach Maher Al Shemmari promised Japan would be
pushed to the limit.
"We gave away a couple of silly goals," he said. "But we
scored an away goal, we are at home and we still have a chance
to win this tie."
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