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Japan doff cap to new Asian powerhouse

AAP logoAAP 10/10/2016 Ben McKay

Japan have ceded favouritism for Tuesday night's World Cup qualifier to Australia, saying they expect to be on the back foot against the Asian champions.

Coach Vahid Halilhodzic admits it's an unusual position for the Asian powerhouses to be in.

The Blue Samurai haven't lost to Australia since 2009 and have claimed three of the past five Asian Cups, underlining their regional dominance.

But Halilhodzic recognises a changing of the guard at the top of Asian football.

"Normally we control the game," the French-speaking Bosnian coach of Japan said through a translator.

"Tomorrow will we play against a side that will put us under high pressure. (Australia) are very impressive physically.

"That is a very rare situation for us but I spoke about that, I've prepared the players tactically for this situation and we want to avoid a surprise."

Two of Japan's most important players will miss the match.

Left-back Yuto Nagatomo of Italian club Inter Milan has been left in Japan following a concussion and Marseille-based right-back Hiroki Sakai is suspended.

Leicester City striker and English Premier League winner Shinji Okazaki could have his game time restricted after spraining an ankle, though the 30-year-old trained on Monday.

While recognising the scale of the task, Halilhodzic said unavailabilities wouldn't be an excuse.

"Yes, we lack two players and that will be a handicap but I will not search for excuses," he said.

"This is not a difficulty for us, our players in these positions will go with courage.

"I know Australia very well, I know they are quality. They have power. They are organised. They have discipline. But they have a weak point, as do every team.

"We will play against the strongest team in Asia ... but we are prepared to do a good job."

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