TOKYO - Japan's desire to cram in as many top-level games as possible before next year's World Cup has prompted a shuffle of their Asian Cup schedule. Japan's qualifier against Hong Kong has been switched from November 14 to October 8 as Japan coach Takeshi Okada seeks to line up an extra friendly against one of the world's top teams. Okada has set up World Cup warm-up matches against the Netherlands, Scotland, Ghana and Togo and wants to use the November 14 official FIFA match day for another top team. The Japan coach said on Thursday his side would play 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa in Durban on November 14. Okada also wants his team to play European champions Spain and World Cup holders Italy. The "Blue Samurai" face the Dutch on September 5 before playing Ghana four days later as part of the team's training camp in the Netherlands. Japan host Scotland on October 10 in Yokohama and Togo in Oita four days later in the three-team Kirin Cup tournament. The Japanese have already secured their place at the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, as have the Netherlands. Okada raised eyebrows by targeting a spot in the World Cup semi-finals, although his best player Shunsuke Nakamura dampened Japan's hopes by admitting: "I couldn't make that prediction." Ghana and Togo made their World Cup debuts at the 2006 tournament in Germany and are well placed to make it to South Africa. Scotland are on course for a playoff spot.
23 July 2009
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