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Japan wary of Mongolia, Tajikistan challenges

Tokyo: Japan are bracing themselves for tough tests when they face Mongolia and Tajikistan on Matchdays Three and Four of their Asian Qualifiers Group F campaign.

The four-time AFC Asian Cup winners were left frustrated after their opening 2-0 win over Myanmar last month as the Samurai Blue felt they should have scored more in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 qualifier.

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Mongolia, appearing at this stage of the Qualifiers for the first time, showed in their opening two matches that they have the defensive resolve to match their ambition to impress and will not be lacking motivation against Japan.

They defeated Myanmar 1-0 in their opening match and were unlucky to lose by the same score to Tajikistan five days later.

On paper, World Number 31 Japan should be too strong for a team ranked 152 places below them but Hajime Moriyasu's side know the perils of underestimating opponents.

The Japanese players admitted after the match against Myanmar there had to be improvement if they are to thrive on the Road to Qatar 2022 and China 2023.

MD2 - Group F: Myanmar vs Japan

“Despite creating that many opportunities, we managed to score just two goals,” said defender Yuto Nagatomo after the match against Myanmar.

Captain Maya Yoshida was more direct in his assessment of Japan's performance.

“We lacked creativity and held onto the ball too long in the second half,” said the Southampton defender.

Japan will certainly have to be at their best as Mongolia have been looking forward to locking horns with the Asian giants since the draw was made, with the last competitive meeting between the two sides having taken place in 1992, with Japan winning 9-0 in an East Asian Games encounter.

Thursday's fixture will be followed by a trip to Dushanbe with early group leaders Tajikistan awaiting.

The Central Asians impressed with a perfect record of two wins - having also beaten Kyrgyz Republic 1-0 - and they will be relishing the chance to testing themselves against Japan.

Japan Squad
Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima, Shuichi Gonda, Daniel Schmidt.
Defenders: Yuto Nagatomo, Maya Yoshida, Hiroki Sakai, Naomichi Ueda, Koki Anzai, Shinnosuke Hatanaka, Takehiro Tomiyasu.
Midfielders: Genki Haraguchi, Gaku Shibasaki, Wataru Endo, Junya Ito, Kento Hashimoto, Shoya Nakajima, Takumi Minamino, Kou Itakura, Ritsu Doan, Takefusa Kubo.
Forwards: Kensuke Nagai, Takuma Asano, Daichi Kamada.

Photos: AFP

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