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'New' Japan aiming for fifth title

Kashima: Japan may be a team in transition but that, says head coach Hajime Moriyasu, isn't going to derail them from the target of winning the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.

Should the Samurai Blue lift the brand new AFC Asian Cup trophy come February 1, it would be a record-extending fifth title and Moriyasu said that it is incentive enough for his players to gel as quickly as possible.

Several players, including the iconic Keisuke Honda, retired after the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia and Moriyasu has been working on grooming the next generation of Samurai Blue.

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"Yes, we are team in transition but we already have a system of play in place. Nishino (Akira, Japan's FIFA World Cup head coach) implemented a style of play and I want to continue building on that.

"The players - new and old - have been receptive and each player has a positive look at what we are trying to achieve," said Moriyasu, a former Sanfrecce Hiroshima player.

Moriyasu, 50, said he will use Japan's two friendlies against Venezuela on Friday and Kyrgyz Republic (Tuesday) to further test his squad.

"The friendlies are important as the players will be able to test themselves and we will be able to have a good look at them as we head into the AFC Asian Cup.

"After the two friendlies, the squad will report for training in the last week of December in Tokyo before we leave for the UAE on January 2."

Moriyasu has enjoyed a fabulous start to his tenure as Japan, despite the changes, have a perfect record of three wins in friendly matches since the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

They defeated Costa Rica and Panama by 3-0 scorelines followed by a morale-boosting 4-3 triumph over World No. 5 Uruguay in October.

The results suggest Moriyasu has had the desired effect on the players despite the changes and the head coach is looking forward to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.

"Winning the title is an obvious target for us and I believe the players will deliver," stressed Moriyasu with a firm tone.

Japan are in Group F with Uzbekistan, Oman and Turkmenistan.

Photos: AFP

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