Giant-killers Syria ready for Japan battle

Doha: Syria, boosted by a shock 2-1 defeat of Saudi Arabia in their Asian Cup opener, are hoping to show their true worth against other three-time champions Japan on Thursday.

"We want to prove to the world that our good result against Saudi Arabia did not come by chance," Syria coach Tita Valeriu said on the eve of their second Group B match against a Japanese team that salvaged a 1-1 draw with Jordan.

"Of course, it will be a great surprise if we win because Japan are a very strong team," added the 44-year-old Romanian, who became the third man in three months to assume the job in mid-December.

"Japan are definitely much more difficult than Saudi Arabia. We must move cautiously in our field and put pressure on the other team."

Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni, whose side saved his blushes with an injury-time equaliser against a doggedly defensive Jordan on Sunday, admitted another tough battle awaited them.

"Syria proved to be highly organised and highly motivated against Saudi Arabia," said the former AC Milan boss, who took over from homegrown Takeshi Okada after the Blue Samurai reached the World Cup last-16 in South Africa.

"They are in an extremely good frame of mind as they are the only team with three points in our group.

"It is important to improve our speed against such a team who refuse to give us space," the 57-year-old Italian added.

"We made 17 shots but drew with Jordan. We must finish on chances without fail."

Zaccheroni is tasked with bringing the title back to Japan after Saudi Arabia beat them in the 2007 semi-finals before bowing to surprise packages Iraq.

Syria midfielder Abdulrazak Al Husein, who scored a brace against Saudi Arabia, said: "Definitely we don`t have any fear but respect for Japan.

"We are increasingly self-confident. We want to prove to the world that the Syrian national team are a developed and well-balanced team."

Syria are raring to reach the Asian Cup knockout stage for the first time in five outings. In their Cup debut in 1980, they missed a last-eight berth by one point.

"I have told my players they should not get too confident of themselves and we must prepare for the next match," Valeriu said.

"The tournament is still open and every team still has the possibility of reaching the quarter-finals.

Japan captain and Wolfsburg midfiedler Makoto Hasebe warned: "Syria are boosted by the momentum of their victory.

"We have worked hard to correct our weakness that resulted in our failure to break down Jordan`s defence. If we are willing to fight by overcoming the point and if we can play football as we want to, I believe we will win."

Bureau Report

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