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Japan v Iraq: Hosts gear up for qualifier

Iraq defender Dhurgham Ismail warned his team they must be realistic of their chances against Japan in their friendly on Thursday.

Vahid Halilhodzic’s Japan are preparing for a World Cup qualifier against Singapore on Monday, and they will enter the Iraq clash as favourites in Yokohama.

In two matches in charge, Halilhodzic has led Japan to wins over Tunisia (2-0) and Uzbekistan (5-1) after taking over in March.

The Bosnian’s eyes will be on the World Cup qualifier, but he will be eager to have his team prepared for the Iraq meeting.

Halilhodzic has named a familiar squad with the likes of Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda and Maya Yoshida all included.

For Iraq, they have a friendly against Syria to follow the Japan outing.

Challenging themselves against the 52nd-ranked Japan, who are Asia’s second-highest ranked team behind Iran, is a huge opportunity for Iraq.

But Ismail said a tricky match awaited his team.

“Because Japan are Asia’s top team, we need to look at that reality for the battle. It’s going to be a difficult match, but we are also a good team,” he said.

“On 11 June, we hope to show a match that Japanese people can enjoy.”

Iraq arrived in Japan on Saturday before a light training session as they battled fatigue, but forward Hussein Ali Wahid said his team would be ready for matchday.

“We were tired because of a long trip, but we’ve recovered thanks to the good environment they put us in,” he said.

“There are still four days left until the match, so we will tune up well and get ready for the match against the Japan national team.”

Coach Akram Salman has picked an inexperienced squad, with five players potentially making their international debuts against a quality Japan outfit.

Tue 9 Jun, 2015
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