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AFC U23 Championship Final: Japan preview

Doha: Japan will be without strikers Takumi Minamino and Musashi Suzuki when they take on Korea Republic in the final of the AFC U23 Championship at Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium on Saturday evening.

Red Bull Salzburg forward Minamino returned to the Austrian club after the Japanese secured qualification for the Olympic Games with victory over Iraq in the semi-finals on Tuesday, while Suzuki (pictured, centre) has been ruled out due to injury.

But despite having secured their main objective of claiming a ticket for Rio de Janeiro, Japan coach Makoto Teguramori will ask his players for one final effort ahead of the completion of the championship.

“It’s a little bit cold today but I’ve come in a short-sleeve shirt, which is my mistake, but tomorrow I can’t make any mistakes in my decisions,” said Teguramori. 

“I’m looking forward to the final against Korea Republic. Both teams are strong, both are from east Asia, both will play in the final and both have been Asian football leaders for many years.

“Tomorrow’s game will be hard because both teams have been seeking to play at a world-class level. At the last Olympic Games both nations went to the last four while at the last World Cup in Brazil both nations were knocked out in the group stages, so we and Korea Republic will try to improve the level of Asian football.”

Japan’s loss to the Koreans in the bronze medal game at the Olympic Games in London in 2012 will be uppermost in the minds of many going into the final, even though neither squad contains anyone who played in the meeting four years ago.

Despite this, Teguramori stressed the loss at the London Games taught Japanese football a number of lessons.

Track the match live via the Match Centre

“We reached the semifinals and that was a big result but we were defeated by Korea,” said the former Vegalta Sendai coach. “The media in Japan focused on the defeat because we weren’t able to win a medal, so the difference between winning a medal and not winning one is significant.

“This is what Korea has taught us and the Japanese people have not forgotten this defeat. Both teams are qualified for the Olympic games and in Japan there was a big celebration but this mood could change as a result of tomorrow’s match.”

With qualification for the Olympic achieved, Teguramori is determined his team will leave the competition on a high as his team attempts to show their best qualities to the watching world.

“The objective for both teams was to qualify for the Olympics in Rio, so both me and the Korean coach will have in mind to play the match at a global standard on the global stage,” he said. “So tomorrow’s match will be a preview of what we will see at the Olympic Games.”

Photo: AFC