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Tashkent: Japan coach Miguel Rodrigo believes Australia will prove his side’s sternest challenge to date with top spot in Group D on the line when the AFC Futsal Championship holders meet the Futsalroos in the decisive clash at the Uzbekistan Stadium on Monday afternoon.

The defending champions turned in the most impressive performance of the tournament thus far when they swept aside Malaysia 11-1 to follow up their narrow opening win over Qatar but the long-serving Spanish boss is aware of the challenge ahead from Robert Varela’s side.

“I had the sense at times that Malaysia almost gave up when the goals kept going in and we know Australia won’t react like this,” said Rodrigo.

“They are a tough side, a physical side, who have a strong mentality and who always keep fighting to the end but of course we also want to keep growing, keep showing our style of futsal and get top place in the group.”

Australia, meanwhile, have qualified for their sixth successive quarterfinals after following up their opening win over Malaysia with a 5-2 victory against Qatar that saw them draw level with Japan at the top of the group.

Japan though has a superior goal difference meaning Australia must win to top the group.

“We have some players on the cards and some niggling injuries and that may be a factor but we want to do well against Japan because it’s important not just for this tournament but also for some of the more inexperienced players in the squad to play these type of games and we’ll be going out to do our best,” said Australia coach Varela.

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The other match in Group D features Qatar and Malaysia and the West Asian side’s coach Tiago De Sousa is looking for a more positive performance from his players.

“We just want to play with freedom, we want to enjoy things and we’ll try to go home with a good feeling,” said Qatar coach Tiago Lino De Sousa.

Malaysia suffered the heaviest loss at the tournament when they fell to Japan but coach Marcelo Serpa and his charges are aiming to turn things around against Qatar.

“We gave up ten goals in the first half against Japan but we tried to play right until the end and show our personality,” said Serpa.

“Even though we lost and scored only one goal we created at least eight or nine chances and now we must try to use that as a positive to boost our confidence when we face Qatar.”

Photo: AFC