Japan coach Makoto Teguramori is hoping it will be third time lucky for his team in the quarter-finals of the AFC U23 Championship as his side prepare to take on Iran for a place in the semi-finals.
Since the former Vegalta Sendai coach took charge of Japan’s Olympic team, the 48-year-old has seen his side fall at the quarter-final hurdle at the previous edition of this tournament in Oman and at the same stage at the Asian Games in Incheon in 2014.
But with the young Samurais eager to maintain a run of Olympic Games appearances that stretches back to 1996, Teguramori will not accept a third such failure.
“When we look back at the previous tournaments, we lost in Oman as well as in Incheon at the Asian Games, so now we have to face Iran and we have to go through,” said Teguramori.
“In terms of skill, tactics and ability, there will be a very high level in this game and a simple mistake could lead to a loss, so we need to really concentrate on the game.
"So what we have to think about is to win and to qualify for the semi-finals. This is all we will be thinking about during the 90, or 120, minutes.”
Teguramori has done an impressive job of rotating his team throughout the group stages and will go into the meeting with Iran with a full compliment available.
Japan’s constant changes have made it harder for Iran coach Mohammad Khakpour to prepare for the game, but the former Geylang United defender knows his team face a difficult challenge.
“The games are so close to each other, the teams have to use whatever players they have to manage their energy,” said Khakpour of the tournament’s demanding schedule.
“But what I see of the Japan team is that there are 23 players who are very close to each other. They follow the rules and play the same way, so there’s not much difference between them.”
Tournament hosts Qatar, meanwhile, take on North Korea in Friday’s other quarter-final, with the pressure on them to perform.
“We start the quarter-finals now, so there is no time for mistakes. At this time it doesn’t matter how many points we had in the first round because it’s only one game,” said coach Felix Sanchez, whose team were the top scorers of the group stage.
“Of course we are playing at home so we expect that this pressure is there, but it’s going to be a good environment for us and hopefully it’s going to be a good opportunity for us.”
Saturday will see South Korea, winners of the bronze medal in London in 2012, take on Jordan as they attempt to maintain their run of appearing at every Olympic Games since 1988.
In the day’s other game, the United Arab Emirates, who also represented Asia in London four years ago, will take on Iraq in the final battle for a place in the last four.
Only the top three finishers will qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro later this year.
Photo: Asian Football Confederationcomments