Football Tribe SEA Editor
Japan mostly retained the same squad that demolished Mongolia 6-0 at the Saitama Stadium 2002 last time out. The only tweak that head coach Hajime Moriyasu had done to the squad was replacing the injured Takehiro Tomiyasu with FC Tokyo’s very own Sei Muroya. Muroya has spoken about his surprise and excitement regarding his call-up, having gone straight to Narita International Airport in order to join his teammates after receiving the news from Moriyasu. Despite having to adjust themselves with the Central Republican Stadium’s artificial turf, Japan are confident that they could make it 3 out of 3 against 2nd placed Tajikistan in order to assume full control of Group F
Like Japan, Tajikistan have recorded 2 wins out of 2 in their Group F qualification games so far, having beaten fellow Central Asians Kyrgyzstan 1-0 in Dushanbe, before following that up with a 1-0 win in Ulaanbaatar over Mongolia. Confidence is high in the Tajik camp, however, Japan would provide a significant step-up in opposition despite the Central Asians’ home-turf advantage. Tajikistan’s key players are men who are quite familiar to the Southeast Asian audience, with former Sriwijaya and Persebaya man Manuchekhr Dzhalilov up front, former Madura United man Nuriddin Davronov in midfield, and current TIRA-Persikabo defender Khurshed Beknazarov safeguarding the backline. Both Manuchekhr and Khurshed had played in Tajikistan’s previous two matches, and are eager to help their teammates create an upset against Japan.
Player to Watch – Junya Ito – Midfielder – Age 26 – KRC Genk: Despite not scoring in the 6-0 rout over Mongolia, Junya Ito has proved himself to be Japan’s standout performer last time out with a treble of assists that guided Japan to victory. Moriyasu would be hoping that Ito would repeat his performance against the Mongolians in Dushanbe, acting as a motor that livens up Japan’s wings and provide Samurai Blue’s attackers with their much-needed ball supply.
Tajikistan are performing well so far, but Japan would be an opponent far too great for the Central Asians to handle. The Central Republican Stadium’s artificial turf could slow down Samurai Blue, but it wouldn’t be enough to stop Japan from cruising to another victory. It’s a 3-1 win for Japan from me.
Match Details: Tuesday, 15th October. Kick-off 17:15 GMT+5 (21:15 GMT+9). Central Republican Stadium, Dushanbe, Tajikistan