Preview - Group F: Japan v Uzbekistan
Al Ain: Victory over Japan and not who his team will play in the Round of 16 is what Hector Cuper is focusing on as he prepares his Uzbekistan side to take on the four-time winners in their final group game at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 in Al Ain on Thursday evening.
The two teams have guaranteed their places in the next phase of the competition after both sides posted wins over Turkmenistan and Oman, with the Uzbeks holding the advantage of a better goal-difference.
With the winners of Group F due to face either Saudi Arabia or Qatar in the Round of 16 and the runners-up slated to meet Australia, attention has been drawn towards the potential opposition in the next phase of the competition.
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But while Cuper admitted he may choose to rest several players, he is adamant his team will still be looking to pick up all three points at Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium.
“The most important thing is to win, it doesn’t matter if we make some changes or not,” said the former Egypt coach. “I don’t like it when people say we should play depending on which rival we will meet in the next round. It doesn’t matter to me who we are going to play."
“Some are saying Australia is a tough opponent, but there may be some surprises. Even the team we think is a smaller team, at the end of the day they may win. So everything is possible in this tournament.
“If you want to win the AFC Asian Cup you should be ready to play against any team. You should not hesitate. I coached in the UEFA Champions League and I have a lot of experience and I never used to choose to select my rivals. I used to play against any rival. The opposition don’t matter.”
Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu is also expected to make several changes to his starting line-up. Yuya Osako and Masaaki Higashiguchi continue to be ruled out due to injury, but the former Sanfrecce Hiroshima coach stressed the Japanese are targeting all three points no matter who takes to the field.
“Before coming to the Asian Cup we had some differences in the physical condition between the J.League players and the players who play in Europe, so we used the training camp in Japan and after coming to UAE we were preparing to improve the conditions between the players,” he said.
“Now we’ve played two matches, their condition is better and tactically the team is getting better in each game. But in attack and defence, the quality needs to be better.
"From the two matches so far we have learned some things and there are some other things we want to improve. I want to sort that out before the game and show our best performance tomorrow.
“After the previous two matches I’m thinking of changing some players as we have a concept that we have been working on in training and I’ve been sharing it with the players during our meetings.
“For the ones on the field tomorrow it’s important they have the same feelings. I don’t think things will go well when we start the game but it’s important they adapt to the opponent and that will be important in the game tomorrow.”
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