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East Asian Cup Preview: Japan v China

Japan enter the East Asian Cup as favourites and will be looking to start the tournament with a win over China on Sunday.

With their group-stage exit from the Confederations Cup still fresh in their minds, Japan will undoubtedly be eyeing the title in South Korea.

Alberto Zaccheroni has named an experimental squad, just like two of the other three competing teams, with only four members of the outfit which travelled to Brazil surviving.

The Italian’s 23-man squad has been drawn exclusively from the J.League but another poor showing would increase the pressure on a coach who has enjoyed a trouble-free three years at the helm.

Zaccheroni insists players can earn their spot in his squad for Brazil 2014 with strong performances but two who missed out are the leading scorers in Japan’s domestic league.

Hisato Sato and Yoshito Okubo were overlooked for selection despite scoring 13 and 12 goals respectively in the league this season.

Zaccheroni has challenged his men to show they can perform at international level and they can also make history by lifting the title for the first time.

Defender Yuichi Komano is their most experienced player in a vastly inexperienced squad, with seven having received their first call-ups.

Included are five players from the Japan side which finished fourth at the 2012 London Olympics, including Cerezo Osaka forward Yoichiro Kakitani.

Fu Bo will lead China at the tournament after the sacking of head coach Juan Antonio Camacho in June.

China were hammered 5-1 by Thailand in a friendly which led to the Spaniard’s dismissal and they also made a slow start to their 2015 Asian Cup qualifying campaign.

The two-time champions, who failed to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, are close to full strength.

Qu Bo and Gao Lin will lead the way up front, while 32-year-old Zheng Zhi captains China from midfield.

The contrast in experience makes for an interesting clash early in the tournament and Zaccheroni will be eager to avoid defeat.

Fri 19 July, 2013
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