Japan are eyeing clashes against the giants of world football to help them gear up for an assault on next year’s World Cup, where they have targeted a semi-final berth.
The Asian side qualified for the showpiece event at the weekend and, turning his sights towards the South African tournament, coach Takeshi Okada said the ideal preparation would be to play the cream of world football.
“We want to play teams that are as strong as possible… even if we’re torn to pieces,” he said on the Blue Samurai’s return from Tashkent where they beat Uzbekistan 1-0 to book their fourth straight ticket to the World Cup finals.
“We want to play three or four (friendly) matches against top-class teams in Europe and South America,” he told a news conference Sunday.
Japan Football Association president Motoaki Inukai told the Sports Nippon daily that Japan would travel to Europe in September to play the Netherlands, currently ranked second in the world behind Spain.
“It will be great if we can play Spain,” Inukai told the Nikkan Sports daily, adding that Japan also wanted to challenge top teams such as England, Germany, France, Brazil and Argentina.
With two rounds left to play, Japan and Australia have qualified for the 2010 World Cup from Asian Group A. South Korea also went through from Group B.
Okada is aiming for a semi-final place, which would match South Korea’s achievement at the 2002 World Cup co-hosted by the Asian neighbours.
But it is considered ambitious as the country’s best World Cup finish was the last-16 round at home.
But Japan and Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura told the press conference “the goal should basically be set high.”
“I want to play Spain because they are at the top,” said Japanese midfielder Yasuhito Endo.
“If we fight strong teams, we see what problems we have. It is good to have firsthand knowledge of strong players,” said the 29-year-old, who helped power J-League outfit Gamba Osaka to the AFC Champions League title last year.
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