Endo wary of Saudi Asian Cup threat

TOKYO - Japan midfielder Yasuhito Endo has warned that group opponents Saudi Arabia will be a serious threat at next year's Asian Cup in Qatar.

The Blue Samurai have also been drawn alongside Jordan and Syria in Group B but Endo believes the rugged Saudis could pose problems for fellow three-times winners Japan.

"Saudi Arabia are the most difficult to play against," reigning Asian player of the year Endo told the Asian Football Confederation website.

"In the whole of Asia I find it difficult to play against them."

Endo was recently linked with a move to Liverpool and is an automatic choice for Japan, helping his country reach the last 16 of this year's World Cup in South Africa.

The 30-year-old Gamba Osaka playmaker said the Asian Cup was a priority for Japan after they were beaten 3-2 in the 2007 semi-finals by Saudi Arabia.

"We couldn't win it last time so I'd like to become champion," said Endo. "I think Japan are the number one (side) in Asia."

Japan, who are still without a manager, face Paraguay in a friendly in Yokohama on September 4 before playing Guatemala in Osaka three days later. Japan lost to Paraguay on penalties at the World Cup finals.

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