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Singapore v Japan: Halilhodzic´s men eyeing improvement

Vahid Halilhodzic wants to see a more clinical Japan as the Asian giants target back-to-back World Cup qualifying wins to close out the year.

Unbeaten Japan head to third-placed Singapore for their fifth World Cup qualifier on Thursday.

Halilhodzic and Japan’s road to Russia 2018 opened with an underwhelming goalless draw at home to Singapore in June.

Singapore had Mohamad Izwan bin Mahbud to thank in the Group E Asian qualifying contest in Saitama, after the goalkeeper produced a masterclass to deny the likes of Shinji Okazaki and Keisuke Honda.

The performance still lives long in the memory as Japan prepare for the reverse fixture at the National Stadium.

“In the Singapore match last time, we had as many as 20 big chances, but couldn’t convert them,” Halilhodzic said.

“This time we want to covert chances to goals. This is an opportunity to get back at ourselves. I want my players to stay motivated and composed. We will put up a good result to protect the top spot in the group.”

While the first-up result was not ideal, Japan have since won three matches to sit second behind group leaders Syria, who have played one game more.

Singapore, meanwhile, have won back-to-back matches against Cambodia and Afghanistan following their loss to Syria in September.

The trip to Singapore is the penultimate contest for Japan before closing out the year with a qualifier against Cambodia on November 17.

“We will play the last two matches of this year on the road, but I want to end with two wins,” Halilhodzic said.

“The makeup of this team is a little different with several new players in the squad. I want to call up as many players as I can during my first year and know not only their ability in football but also their personality by having conversations with them. I expect a high level of things from my players.

“I give opportunities to different players [from the past], and it’s also my message to them to aim higher.”

Debutants Akihiro Hayashi and Yuichi Maruyama have been included in Japan’s squad, while Bernd Stange has called upon a rookie of his own – 22-year-old midfielder Christopher James van Huizen.

Tue 10 Nov, 2015
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