Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni believes Friday’s friendly against France will provide an opportunity to measure how far his side have come.
The 2011 Asian Cup champions sit atop Group B in AFC World Cup qualifying and are on track for a spot in Brazil.
Speaking ahead of Japan’s visit to the Stade de France, Zaccheroni is eagerly anticipating their clash against Didier Deschamps’ men.
“I am very curious,” the former AC Milan, Inter and Juventus coach said.
“We have asked to play with a very strong team and in my opinion France are among the best five teams in the world.
“If we want to improve, we need to be able to handle these kinds of matches.”
Zaccheroni will have to cope with a list of injuries but says he has faith in his fringe players.
He will be counting on Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa to shine with CSKA Moscow playmaker Keisuke Honda doubtful with a calf injury.
“Well, you have to live with that in football (injuries to players),” he said.
“It has always happened throughout my career to have someone missing out. In the qualifying round for the World Cup I had to do without (Yuto) Nagatomo and Honda, while in the last games we played without many players who were disqualified.
“This time I am sure we will perform well because I have faith in my substitutes.”
Meanwhile, France coach Didier Deschamps expects the friendly match to be a difficult encounter.
The former Marseille coach said Japan were well-organised and defensively strong under Zaccheroni’s guidance.
“I don’t know if Japan play in a particular way, it’s just a well-organised and rigorous team,” Deschamps said.
“Maybe it’s because they have an Italian coach – that could explain it. It’s a team which collectively can produce a lot of sprints during a game, they play with strong intensity, so collectively when they don’t have the ball, everybody runs, they defend all together.
“We’ll have the ball with a lot of defenders in front of us, deep on the pitch. We are prepared. We often play these kind of games.
“We’ll put them under pressure, we’ll try to score as many goals as we can, but we have to be careful. Japan is not just a defensive team, they have some good forward players, who run fast, have mobility, they are able to be dangerous too.”
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