Preview: Japan v Australia
Venue: Yanmar Stadium, Osaka
Broadcast details: Tuesday, November 18 – LIVE on FOX SPORTS 505 and ABC TV from 9pm AEDT on Tuesday.
Ange Postecoglou’s troops have shown they are adapting to the coach’s methods in patches but haven’t been able to put it together at both ends for 90 minutes as yet.
This would be the ideal time for that to happen, with the coach tinkering with formations and the clash in Osaka the side’s last genuine hit-out before the Asian Cup begins on home soil in January.
What Ange Postecoglou will want to get out of this game?
Having improved in the defensive area in the side’s last two friendlies against UAE and Qatar last month, the boss will want to see some more cutting edge in the front third of the pitch.
The return to full fitness of Robbie Kruse is encouraging while Mathew Leckie has been in strong form in Germany and the pair give the Socceroos plenty of pace and power out wide.
It’s now their job to add some goals to their exciting wing play, which would certainly help the side’s struggles in front of goal and giving some support to Tim Cahill.
The time has also come for the central defensive candidates to put their hands up for a starting berth come that first game of the Asian Cup.
With Matthew Spiranovic set to have one spot sewn up the likes of Trent Sainsbury, Alex Wilkinson and Nikolai Topor-Stanley can make it hard for the boss to drop them with a good showing against one of the Cup favourites.
This will be an important game for...
Nikolai Topor-Stanley: After getting his first taste of the national team in the last friendly against Qatar, the Western Sydney Wanderers FC skipper will be desperate to see some more action in this one. With a number of options at Postecoglou’s disposal in the heart of defence, Topor-Stanley will need to make the most of any opportunity he gets. His club combination with Spiranovic could work in his favour for the Asian Cup if he performs well here.
Mitch Nichols: A favourite of Postecoglou’s from his time at Brisbane, Nichols gets his first chance under his old boss in national team colours. Nichols’ class and creativity has made him a standout in the A-League but if he wants to be a consistent member of the Socceroos he needs to translate that form into international level. Playing in the city of his parent club – Nichols has been loaned to Glory from Cerezo Osaka – just adds to the sense of occasion for this talented player.
Chris Herd: The versatile Herd has done reasonably well in his three caps so far, but has yet to show he can nail down a spot at right-back. With Ivan Franjic back to full fitness and performing well for his club in Russia, Herd – if called upon - will need to have a more impressive showing if he wants a spot in that Asian Cup squad.
Tim Cahill: "It's going to be a tactical battle. Are Japan going to show all their cards? Are we going to show all our cards? Are they going to do the same set plays as they will in the tournament? I think not. The fact is we want to win games, but I really think it's going to be a tricky game because they're the favourites, the powers of Asia. And they've obviously earned the right with winning the last Asian Cup and the way they're performing.”
Likely starting XI and formation for Socceroos
Mat Ryan has been in strong form in Belgium with Club Brugge and should again get the nod to start ahead of Mitch Langerak.
Now back to full fitness, Franjic is likely to start at right-back especially as Herd has struggled to get much game time in England at present.
Fresh from winning the K-League title with Jeonbuk Motors, Alex Wilkinson should get one of the central defensive berths, most likely alongside Trent Sainsbury, although Postecoglou might want another look at Nikolai Topor-Stanley after he played in the last friendly with Qatar. Aziz Behich, in form at club level in Turkey, might be offered a start at left-back, especially as Jason Davidson has failed to break into the West Brom side.
In midfield, skipper Mile Jedinak should assume the anchor role irrespective of formation, but it will be interesting to see who Postecoglou opts for with Mark Milligan out injured. Matt McKay could make his 50th Socceroos appearance there although the boss may want to see a bit more of James Holland should he go for a 4-2-3-1, pairing him with the skipper.
The more attack-minded Massimo Luongo or James Troisi are pushing for the more advanced spots if it's a 4-3-3 with veteran Mark Bresciano another option. Mitch Nichols is the X-factor in this scenario if Postecoglou wants to see how he performs in this environment.
The attack looks far more settled with Robbie Kruse likely to start on the right, pushing Mathew Leckie to the left with Tommy Oar not in the squad. Japanese nemesis Tim Cahill, who missed training on Sunday with a hip problem, should be fit to lead the line.
Bluffer’s guide to Japan
The Socceroos’ traditional Asian rivals are ranked 52nd in the world and come into this clash fresh from a 6-0 drubbing of Honduras.
Coach Javier Aguirre has only been in the role since late July, following a disappointing World Cup for the Blue Samurai, and after originally looking to regenerate the squad has re-called a host of veterans for these friendlies.
Experienced midfielder Yasuhito Endo, defender Atsuto Uchida and World Cup skipper Makato Hasebe are all back in the fold and are well-known to the Socceroos.
Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda of AC Milan are the two stars of the Japanese midfield and are both in red-hot form for club and country along with striker Takashi Inui, who bagged a brace in the big win over the Hondurans.
The Blue Samurai and the Socceroos have been involved in some titanic battles over the last few years, beginning with that famous World Cup clash which Australia won 3-1. Japan got revenge in the final of the 2011 AFC Asian Cup with a 1-0 triumph in extra-time.
The two nations have met on 22 previous occasions and can’t be split, with both sides winning seven matches with eight draws.
Japan’s recent results
Japan warmed up for this clash with a 6-0 demolition of Honduras on Friday night. It followed a crushing 4-0 defeat at the hands of Brazil and a 1-0 victory over Jamaica in back-to-back friendlies last month.