Semi-final - Preview: Japan v Australia
Kuala Lumpur: The 2018 AFC U-16 Championship semi-final between Japan and Australia at the National Stadium on Thursday will be a meeting between familiar foes.
The two have met before in the AFC U-16 Championship - in 2010, 2014 and 2016 - with the head-to-head at one win each.
It promises to be a cracker as Japan enjoyed a smooth journey into the semi-finals while Australia rebounded from an opening day defeat to stamp their mark on the Championship.
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Japan, seeking their first title since 2006, are fully focused on the semi-finals after having sealed their place in the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup Peru.
“We don’t have any secrets. The key to our success is the unity of our team, including all the players and staffs,” said head coach Yoshiro Moriyama.
Japan opened their campaign with a flourish as they came from a goal down to beat Thailand 5-2, but a 0-0 stalemate against Tajikistan put their qualification hopes on the ropes. However the young Samurai Blue defeated hosts Malaysia 2-0 to finish top of Group A.
In the quarter-finals, Japan were made to work hard for the 2-1 win over Oman, who came back from a goal down to level the score but the East Asians found the winner through Toyama Shoji.
Australia, Moriyama said, will be another test for his team.
“My impression of the Australian team is that each player is individually skilled, intelligent and they can take advantage of the game by having higher possession. I expect our players to struggle getting the ball.
“However, our whole team are a little bit relieved from the pressure (having qualified for the World Cup).
“This will make it difficult for our team to go into the semi-final and we need to be mentally prepared once again to not only fight Australia, but also these feelings. “
Australia won’t be lacking in motivation, having surged to the semi-finals despite the 3-0 opening day loss to Korea Republic.
They secured wins against 2016 champions Iraq and newcomers Afghanistan to finish second in Group D before showing great strength to defeat Indonesia 3-2 in the quarter-finals after going a goal down.
Semi-finalists in 2010 and 2014, head coach Trevor Morgan is proud of his players’ fighting spirit and is hoping Australia can build on their strengths to overcome Japan.
“Japan are one of the strongest teams in Asia. Their playing style reflects their culture and their technical talents. They are fluent going forward and well organised in defence,” said Morgan.
“We need to capitalise on our dominant play and be better in transition moments. We always select from our squad the team we feel suits our approach to the game.”
Japan v Australia
National Stadium, 16:30 (Local time)
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