Vahid Halilhodzic has warned that Japan cannot relax and afford another debacle like the Singapore one as they enter the third and final round of 2018 World Cup qualifying.
The Samurai Blue take on UAE on Thursday at Saitama Stadium looking to get the last phase of qualification off to a good start.
And Halilhodzic wants his players to keep their focus as the campaign gets serious, and is confident they will deliver in front of their fans.
“Our opponents are a very good team. Now that we’re in the final round of qualifying, these are games we have to win,” the coach told reporters. “We’ve already made a lot of preparations.
“We’ve faced various difficulties but we’ve faced them in training and I believe we’ll be able to play well in this important match.
“We’ve spent a lot of time preparing for this match. We’ve looked at a lot of videos and analysed a lot of matches. We understand how UAE play, their strengths, and their weaknesses. But we haven’t had much time on the pitch.
“We experienced [the 0-0 draw] against Singapore and understand that anything can happen in football. There are a lot of things we can’t predict, and that’s what makes the sport so interesting.
“This is an important first step for us. We want to win this match and then win in Thailand. Our opponents aren’t going to hand us three points, so we have to go out and take them.
“We have to do everything we can to win.”
Despite expressing his hope, Halilhodzic did acknowledge difficulties in getting the players together for sufficient training sessions amidst scheduling inconsistencies.
“Different players have different circumstances, advantages, and disadvantages,” he said in response to the European season just starting in relation to the J.League.
“A lot of players are in Europe. With the season just beginning, unfortunately all of them aren’t starting for their club. It’s a difficult time to pick a national team squad. As far as our local players, right now Japan is very hot and the players are fatigued.
“It’s difficult to choose the sort of players we want to use. Other players are dealing with light injuries.
“But despite these challenges, we know that Saitama Stadium will be packed tomorrow and the players will be ready to win. This team has plenty of quality and experience. We’ll be able to control the match, but it won’t be easy.”