Asian Cup Preview: Japan v Palestine
The new week brings on a new set of matches in an Asian Cup that has been high on excitement and colour thus far over the opening three match days.
Japan, who are the current holders of the trophy, head up the highway from Sydney to the Hunter region to open their title defence taking on Palestine, who were the last team to qualify for the tournament via the AFC Challenge Cup in Manila.
Head to Head:
Japan and Palestine haven’t met in a competitive fixture so the opening Group D fixture will be a momentous moment for both nations.
Japan will be looking to repeat their feat of four years ago in Qatar while Palestine will use the group games to showcase their nation to the world.
Japan has settled into their surroundings in the Hunter region early, playing out a pre-tournament friendly against Auckland City last Sunday in Cessnock finishing comfortable winners 2-0.
The Big Issue:
How wide will the margin be at the end of the 90 minutes – Japan has their golden generation burned by their disappointing World Cup campaign where they exited in the group stages without a win.
They will rely on their attacking force of overseas stars of Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and golden boot favourite Shinji Okazaki, who will want to set the tournament up early with a dominant victory over the Asian minnows.
For Palestine the champagne corks have been popped in just making the final tournament and the team have embraced the local community around them in preparation for Monday’s game.
Talking to media earlier they are using the Asian Cup to show “that Palestine football team is moving forward despite difficulties faced.”
Keisuke Honda – one of the best players in Asia will want to hold onto his personal title while stamping his authority on the 2015 edition of the tournament early on with a dominating performance.
Palestine will look to stay compact to frustrate the Japanese star from pulling the strings in midfield like he does for his club AC Milan.
Honda will relish feeding the forward line of Kagawa and Okazaki going to make it a long day for the Palestinian back four.
If there is going to be some attacking intent and cut through for the predicted easy beats of Group D, they will look to Ashraf Nu’man who will lead the line.
The forward has 18 goals in almost a half century of appearances for his nation and is a rarity amongst the squad, as he plies his trade overseas for Saudi Arabian club Al-Faisaly in a squad that is predominately home grown.
The Japanese coach Javier Aguirre revelled in Japan’s favourite status for the tournament saying a repeat would allow them to tackle the rest of 2015 refreshed.
He also mentioned that there will be tough games at the 2015 edition of the cup but it won’t be this one.
Japan will have too much firepower for the Palestinian side and will take this game comfortably by a handful of goals.