Australia coach questions Japan's mettle

TOKYO - Australia coach Pim Verbeek has accused Japan of being scared of his Socceroos side before next week's World Cup qualifier in Yokohama. The Japanese will train behind closed doors in the build-up to Wednesday's game to keep out Australian "spies" -- a move that Verbeek insisted was a sign of weakness. "It doesn't show a lot of confidence," the Dutchman told reporters on Saturday. "You have been training together for five weeks and still need closed-door sessions." Verbeek rejected the notion the Australians would follow suit. "We don't have closed-door sessions," he said. "You are welcome to come the whole week." Japan were beaten 1-0 away by Bahrain in an Asian Cup qualifier before thrashing a below-strength Finland side 5-1 at home in their previous two games. A second-string Australian team were held to a 0-0 draw by Indonesia in Asian Cup qualifying but most of their Europe-based players will arrive in Japan after club duty this weekend. Everton midfielder Tim Cahill and West Ham defender Lucas Neill are among those in Verbeek's squad for the Yokohama clash. Australia lead the group with a perfect nine points from three games, two ahead of second-placed Japan. The top two from each of the two five-team groups will qualify from Asia for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa. Verbeek claimed his players could prove too street-wise for Japan despite their relative lack of preparation time. "Japan have had a lot of preparation," he said. "That gives them a big advantage. But my players are very experienced and can handle the pressure with little or no preparation." The teams have become fierce rivals since Australia beat Japan 3-1 at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Japan gained revenge by knocking Australia out of the Asian Cup the following year. Verbeek was coach of South Korea when they beat Japan on penalties to win the third-place playoff at the same 2007 Asian Cup tournament. "Korea played a long time with 10 men but still had the mental strength to win," he said. "Australian players are even stronger so you know what to expect on Wednesday."