Japan’s next UFWC/Asian Cup match will be against the current group-toppers, Syria.
Japan’s campaign got off to as disappointing start, as the pre-tournament favourites could only draw 1-1 with minnows Jordan, as a last-minute equaliser saved some Japanese blushes. However coach Alberto Zaccheroni will be less-than-pleased with his sides performance, as it was a match they were thoroughly expected to win. It was second draw in two games since winning the UFWC title from Argentina, and their opponents are showing no fear against them, which will be a worry for both their UFWC and Asian Cup campaigns. Their defensive rearguard was severely depleted for the match against Jordan, but that can’t excuse their lack of goals at the other end, as they had plenty of chances to score. Zaccheroni’s men will still be liekly favourites going into their next match, but there will be serious doubts over whether they will be able to put in a performance worthy of potential Asian Cup Champions.
Syria, in contrast, started their AFC campaign on a high, and will fancy their chances against Japan, as they fight for supremacy in Group B, as well as the UFWC title. They started the Asian Cup with a 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia, with Abdelrazaq Al-Hussain’s two goals enough to secure a fantastic result, having lost their previous matches. Like Jordan, the Syrians (who have never been higher than 78th in the FIFA rankings) will be looking to cause an upset, and what better way to do that by beating Japan for the UFWC title and near-certainty of advancing to the quarter-finals? They will be relying on their top strikers to do the business for them, with Mohamed Al Zeno and captain Firas Al Khatib having scored 39 international goals between them. Al Khatib didn’t play at all against Saudi Arabia, so should be fully fit for the challenge against what could be another depleted Japanese rear guard.
Will Japan recover from their bad start to retain the UFWC title with emphasis, or will Syria achieve what Jordan nearly did by winning the title on their first attempt? Stay tuned for the post-match analysis of Japan’s latest challenge.