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Preview - Round of 16: Japan v Saudi Arabia

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sharjah: Focus will be the key element for four-time champions Japan when Hajime Moriyasu’s side take on Saudi Arabia in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Round of 16 tie at the Sharjah Stadium on Monday. 

After having cruised through Group F with three wins, Japan will face their toughest test so far in the form of Saudi Arabia but Moriyasu believes his team are ready.

“After our three games in the group stage, we are now well prepared to face our opponents (Saudi Arabia) and the players will show their best on the field,” said Moriyasu, who took charge of Japan after the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

“We have used 22 players during the group stage and this has brought us to the knockout round. And we’re looking at the quarter-finals now.”

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Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men have shown how effective they can be on counter-attacks but Moriyasu said he isn’t worried about that aspect of Saudi Arabia’s game.

“My players are confident and we have analysed their matches. Having said that, the Saudi game is going to be the most difficult as they are strong opponents.”

The 50-year-old also stressed that despite scoring six goals thus far, it is also important to keep clean sheets.

“Scoring is important but not conceding against an opponent like Saudi is equally important but we won’t be too defensive.

“Anything can happen on the field but my players know what they have to do and they need to play as a unit.

“I’m sure the Saudi team are very motivated, after losing their last match (against Qatar). We have to prepare mentally in order to win. Saudi have strong individual players and are a good team. They can be aggressive in attack and in defence as well, so we must be prepared for that.”

Saudi Arabia head coach Pizzi expressed his admiration for the Samurai Blue but said his players will be able to cope with Japan.

“We are extremely happy to have qualified for the Round of 16 as our ambition is to go forward in this competition. We know very well we're going to face one of the favourites to win the AFC Asian Cup.

“They are considered Asia's best. But we are high on confidence, that's why we are here. It will not be an easy game for us but we will try to win.”

Pizzi said Saudi Arabia are motivated to add to their three AFC Asian Cup titles, the last of which was won in 1996 in the UAE.

“We have a great opportunity to carve a new path for ourselves. The game against Japan will be considered as life or death, simply because the team that loses will be sent home and all the players are ready and available tomorrow.

“I trust my players and I know they will do well. We have, at least, a 50 percent to win the match and then 50 percent to win the tournament. We will play our usual game, which is possession and passing of the ball.”

Fixture Round of 16 Japan v Saudi Arabia Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah 15:00 (Local time)

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