Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni
promised Thursday's home game against the UAE would be anything
but friendly in nature as the Asian champions warm up for the
World Cup qualifier with Iraq next week.
"I don't like calling these games 'friendly' matches," the
Italian told reporters after training in Niigata on Wednesday.
"This game carries great weight for us before the game with
Iraq. We have to stamp our authority on the game and tighten up
for an important game on Tuesday."
Zaccheroni will call on Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa
and CSKA Moscow playmaker Keisuke Honda, although Inter Milan
defender Yuto Nagatomo is an injury concern.
Kagawa, who scored his first goal for Japan in Niigata
against UAE in 2008, will again be forced to play on the left,
deferring to Honda, much to Kagawa's chagrin.
Having made a strong start for United since his pre-season
move from Germany's Borussia Dortmund, Kagawa admitted he wanted
to play in the hole against UAE.
"Obviously I want to play in an advanced position but the
situation is up to the coach," said Kagawa. "I have to perform
wherever I'm picked to play."
Japan overpowered Oman 3-0 and Jordan 6-0 at home before
being held 1-1 in Australia in June in their first three games
in the final round of Asian 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
A mistake from Kagawa led to Venezuela's equalizer in last
month's 1-1 draw in a Sapporo friendly.
"I didn't play well in that game," said the 23-year-old
Kagawa. "This is an important game so I have to make sure I'm at
Zaccheroni said Nagatomo would undergo a fitness test to
determine whether he would take part in the UAE warm-up.
"Let's see how he feels tomorrow," said the Italian. "I
don't want to take any risks. If he's 100 percent, he will play.
If not, he won't."
Japan currently lead World Cup qualifying Group B by five
points from Iraq, Australia and Jordan going into Tuesday's game
against Zico's Iraq at Saitama.
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