Australia's Tim Cahill.
Australia's Tim Cahill. Geoff Jones / SMP Images

Japan ready for a fight in World Cup qualifier against Aus

THE Socceroos can expect a fired-up Japanese outfit in tonight's World Cup qualifier in Saitama after coach Alberto Zaccheroni was less then impressed with his team's 2-0 loss to Bulgaria in a friendly last week.

"I could see good parts in them and things that need to be fixed," the Italian said afterwards, adding "we can't show the good side of our game when we play at a slow pace".

That loss followed a shock 2-1 defeat against fellow Group B side Jordan in March, a result that left the Blue Samurai one point short of being the first team through to next year's finals.

Japan leads the group with 14 points from its six games, with Jordan second on seven points, also from six matches.

Australia is third (on goal difference) with six points from five games, level with Oman which has six points from its six games.

Iraq is at the bottom of the group with five points from its five games.

Australia's last qualifying match resulted in a disappointing 2-2 draw with Oman, but Japanese-based striker Josh Kennedy is back in the line-up for his first international in 19 months after recovering from a back complaint.

Kennedy, who plays for Nagoya Grampus in the J-League, has scored three times in his past eight matches for the club, and looks certain to partner Tim Cahill at some stage in Saitama.

The selection prompted Japanese captain Makoto Hasebe to say he expected Australia to pepper the Blue Samurai with long balls to use the aerial prowess of Kennedy and Cahill.

Socceroos defender Luke Wilkshire said his side was capable of playing whatever style was required to get a result.

"If we're a long-ball team that wins the game, who cares?" Wilkshire said.

"I wouldn't say we're a long-ball team. We've got players who can pass, but there's no hiding the fact we've got strength in the air when we're playing with Kennedy and Timmy.

"You want to get the ball wide, get crosses into them and use their strength."

Australia's main injury concern was midfielder Mile Jedinak who limped into camp last week after suffering an ankle injury playing for Crystal Palace in its 1-0 win over Watford last Tuesday that earned his side promotion to the Premier League.


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