SINGAPORE: Japan coach Vahid Halihodzic said his players will be on a mission for revenge when they face Singapore in a World Cup qualifier on Thursday.
The Lions spoiled Halihodzic’s first competitive match as the Blue Samurai coach five months ago when they repelled everything that came their way to earn a surprise 0-0 draw at Saitama Stadium.
Japan have since found their feet in Group E, reeling off three consecutive wins in which they have scored 12 goals without conceding. However, Halihodzic is determined to see his side banish the memories of their first meeting when they face the Southeast Asian side at Singapore’s National Stadium.
“We have a bad memory of the result of our first game against Singapore so we want revenge. Of course, Singapore have a team that will be playing for their people but we have determination and quality to look for the victory,” said the Bosnian.
“I said to the players that we have to show more determination because this game is more difficult than the first one because our opponents are playing at home, but we have the quality to get the win.
“I want us to attack and score, but to score a goal is the most difficult thing in football.”
With 11 of Japan’s 23 players arriving in Singapore after playing for clubs in Europe last weekend, travel fatigue and acclimatisation to the tropical conditions could be a factor in selection.
“Some players have just arrived from Europe and they are still getting used to the differences in the temperature and the heat so I don’t know who will start the game yet,” said Halihodzic, who will be taking his team on to Phnom Penh for their next qualifier against Cambodia on Tuesday.
While Japan and Singapore are tied on 10 points in the group, two points behind leaders Syria, Singapore coach Bernd Stange is insisted that qualifying for Russia 2018 is not a target for his side.
“World Cup qualification is more of a matter for Japan but we are aiming to go all the way to the Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates in 2019,” said the German.
“We are very proud with what we have achieved so far. Ten points is a good result for us and we now want to go all the way to the United Arab Emirates. That is our goal and the players are very convinced they can do that.”
The region’s 2018 World Cup qualifying process doubles as a means of entry to the 2019 Asian Cup, which is expanding to 24 teams for the first time.
However, Stange does not intend to make things easy for Japan as they seek another memorable result against the four-time Asian Cup winners..