Asian Cup: Aguirre confident ahead of quarterfinal clash with UAE

SYDNEY, January 24  — Japan coach Javier Aguirre is confident his players will be sufficiently rested and ready to extend their winning run at the Asian Cup on Friday, despite having only had 48 hours to prepare for their quarterfinal meeting with the United Arab Emirates.

The defending champions eased into the last eight with a perfect record of nine points from the group stage, following Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Jordan in Melbourne. UAE have had a vital extra day’s rest, with their last group game — a 1-0 defeat to Iran — having been played a day earlier in Brisbane.

“That (having one less day) is not something that we are attaching importance to,” Aguirre told a press conference on the eve of the match in Sydney.

“We have only had two days since the last game and the players have not completely recovered. The last 90 minutes (against) Jordan was pretty intense,” he said.

“But tomorrow we will be 100 percent and I think we will be able to play a high-tempo game. We only had a light training session yesterday, as we will today, so I think the players will be okay.”

“We have to start from zero as all eight teams will be battling it out with hopes of reaching the next round. We have to be completely focused for 90 minutes. We will respect our opponents, but I think we are good enough to win the game.”

Aguirre has fielded the same starting lineup for all three group games. Central defender Masato Morishige took a blow to the head against Jordan and trained separately from the main group on Wednesday, but is only a minor concern.

“I haven’t heard anything from the team doctor about Morishige not being able to play, so I believe he will be available. Even if he can’t play, I believe whoever comes in will be able to do a good job,” said Aguirre, whose side have yet to concede a goal at this tournament.

“We have been defending as a team, not just the backline, and hopefully we can extend our run of clean sheets tomorrow,” he said.

UAE coach Mahdi Ali also did not view the extra day’s rest as an advantage for his team.

“We have had one day more of course, but after 48 hours I think they (the Japanese players) have recovered very well. I don’t think it makes much difference.”

Japan also thrashed Palestine 4-0 and beat Iraq 1-0 in a game they should have won by a far greater margin, but Ali believes his side will provide tougher opposition for the champions and hopes his side can score first at Stadium Australia.

“I hope that we score the first goal tomorrow. Japan have not been tested very well in their past three games, but tomorrow’s game is different. We play different football than the other teams that played against Japan and we will try to do our best to score tomorrow.”

“Japan have a good team and most of their players are playing in Europe. They are experienced and have good mentality and technique. But at the same time, we have played many games against teams similar to Japan and played very well.”

“We have studied Japan very well, and we will do our best to stop their key players in tomorrow’s game.”

Ali said he has no injury concerns, but Abdulaziz Haikal will come in to replace suspended defender Walid Abbas, who has picked up two yellow cards.  (PNA/Kyodo)


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